Who is Brave is Free
Languages: Vaiar, Western Svertan
Government: Anocracy – Bands, Clans, Septs
Rulers: No singular, each tribe is led by Shamans, Elders, Chieftans, or Warlords
Example Names: Sudvan Irda Ywiros, Svatmir Irda Otoros, Visebor Irda Aiaros, Boke Irda Caernvig, Maidar Irda Madun, Niegmir Irda Amaros, Rastyr Irda Gifriosan, Mongke Irda Bytcar
- Many Vandar names are singular or constructed as ‘[Personal Name] from/Irda [Clan]’
- Generally, but not always, first names starting with Vowel or S are Feminine and those starting with Consonant or T are Masculine or gender neutral
The history of Vandar is poorly documented and disputed. The Vandarans themselves claim they are descended from the unconquered tribes of the first age; those who resisted the Urul Imperium and survived its fall. This claim is typically used to back up a sense of superiority over other cultures based on a lack of responsibility for the Urul cataclysm. Svertan scholars posit a different history, arguing that the Vandar are instead the descendants of early outcasts and refugees fleeing the fall of the Imperium. The sparsity of Urul ruins in the Vandar lands can be used to support either claim.
Chimori: Adventurers imbued with the power by arcane markings, and those who can craft the markings themselves. Tattooed mystics and sigil smiths.
Kholblod: Survivors altered by exposure to unnatural conditions and creatures found in Vandar and the Chillwaste in particular. Aberrrant or bestial entities tied to powerful and mysterious wild gods.
Occupying a verdant coastal and inland landscape of dense and ancient forests, rushing rivers, and jagged mountain peaks, the people of Vandar are difficult to generalize about. This disparate culture of anarchistic and liberty obsessed clans are unified primarily by a common language and shared resistance to anything resembling regional unity. Vandarans live subsistence and raider lifestyles, eschewing the industrial tendencies of their Svertan neighbors and the mercantile aspirations of their Granden descendants but happy to benefit from those advances through plunder and pillage.
The Vandar are a loose cultural grouping that encompasses dozens of local clans spread over an enormous expanse of frigid arboreal terrain. The diversity of this group is so great that some scholars argue that the Vandar are simply a well-studied subset of the commonly found ‘Savage’, the aggressively hostile and mentally unstable population of wild-folk found lurking at the borders and in the wilds of many civilizations. This lazy approach to a complex cultural group is often driven by a misunderstanding or exaggeration of the common Vandaran world-view. Regardless, the variation can be significant and it is easier to point out the commonalities than the many differences.
It is well known that Vandaran culture emphasizes personal freedom, conquest, and dominance, and that many of the clans of the Vandar are prolific raiders who prey on each other and their neighbours, but the similarity to Savages ends there:
- Vandarans base their behaviour on a coherent world view rather than the result of madness and bestial instinct.
- Vandarans actively trade both internally and in limited amounts with other cultures such as Svertheim and Granden, demonstrating a trade and craft culture that is not found amongst Savages.
- Vandarans demonstrate a common set of languages
- Though there are several despotic or apparently anarchic Vandar clans, most have a sophisticated form of governance and legal systems
- Several Vandar groups demonstrate peaceful values and active opposition to violence.
- Finally, Vandarans mostly avoid the darker excesses seen among Savages such as cannibalism, incest, and blood cults.
While the specifics of governance can vary significantly, the general structure is fairly common. All Vandarans belong to one or more tribal groupings and the terms used for these groups include Clans, Septs, or Bands.
- Clan: Clans represent the broadest form of social group and the most enduring. A clan is an extended kin group of some kind, often organized around a key ancestor known for great deeds or achievements. Vandaran clans are synonymous with major and minor settlement names and all clan members share a common surname. New members are acquired by inter-clan raids, competition, and political marriages, but usually all who live in a given settlement share the clan name.
- Sept: A sept represents a subgroup defined by a marital or relational arrangement. In this way a Sept name is more akin to a traditional family name in many other cultures. Septs can grow quite large, eventually splitting off into a separate clan if a notable figure rises to lead them.
- Band: Bands are groups of individuals who either share a single specific work role (Hunter, Builder, Beermaker), or complimentary work roles (Hunter, Tanner, Armoursmith). Bands are sometimes viewed as akin to companies or unions in other cultures, but the relationship is less mercantile or authoritarian, typically driven more by shared history and experience and often lacking a singular leader.
In the North of Vandar where settlements are smaller, conditions harsher, and lifespans shorter, many groups utilize only clan structures. Further south in more populous settlements Septs and Bands are more common.
Leadership traditions in Vandar are diverse but fall broadly into four categories; Shamans, Elders, Chieftans, or Warlords.
- Shaman: Acting as individuals or in councils, Shamans, lead their clans based on religious tradition and ritual, taking auspices, reading omens and augeries, and petitioning traditional and primitive celestials for guidance. Kholblod’s often rise to particular prominence in such groups.
- Elders: Elders are the oldest members of a Clan and lead their people based on experience and accumulated wisdom. Elder led clans are more frequently found in the North of Vandar.
- Chieftans: In Vandar rulers whose authority is based on lineage are known as Chieftans. Though few Vandaran would admit it, clans who follow this form of leadership are often very similar to Svertan neighbours to the East.
- Warlords: Leadership by the most vicious and ambitious, the most dangerous clans of Vandar are led by warlords seeking glory, territory, and loot. They are responsible for the common perception of Vandarans as savages and raiders due to their often brutal tactics and rapacious appetites. These clans are found primarily in the southern reaches of Vandar, executing raids on each other and their Svertan and Granden neighbours.
While the Warlords of the south are notable, there are an equal number of peaceful agrarian Vandarans eking out livings in the great forests. Warlords sometimes prey on their more peaceable and settled Vandar brethren but ancient family ties and clan treaties often limit such behaviour and this has resulted in a rough equilibrium among the Vandar factions, with warfare typically seasonal, short, and focused more on acquisition of slaves and resources than eradication. That is not to say it is a stable country; the alliances between clans combined with smaller factional struggles make the culture indecipherable to outsiders and a few decades is sufficient time for the rise and fall of any number of clan-holds.
Vandaran relationships with their southern and eastern neighbours are fraught at best. Granden, itself the result of a Vandar clan which achieved greater power and glory in the South, only barely tolerates its northern neighbours. The Grandenari have long abided by ancient treaties regarding their northern cousins but as they grow increasingly culturally distant these treaties are strained by the agressive behaviour of the southern clans and most believe that the Vandar and Granden are only a few raids away from total war. If such a conflict were to be triggered the outcome remains uncertain; Granden has a superior centralized government and military but the Vandar are more populous and, in times of war, can call on ancient clan pacts to unite against an enemy. And while technologically Granden is the beneficiary of some minor first age technologies, the Vandar are much more practiced in warfare itself.
The Vandar/Svertheim relationship is a lengthy one involving multiple invasions and a key role for Vandar in catalyzing the creation of a unified Svertheim. According to Svertan histories there were two major invasions by Vandar raiders; the first, repelled by the founding Theuda of Svertheim, Maghnus Serdheim, prompted the initial Alliance of the Swordpeaks which eventually fell into disarray as a result of internal issues nearly a millennium later. The Vandar, sensing the weakness of Svertheim, united for a second invasion, nearly conquering the Svertans before the reunifier, Kurdus Sigurd, pushed them back. In both cases, the Vandar pushed deep enough into Svertheim before being pushed back that there are lasting memories of their cruelty and avarice across the alliance. And while the ensuing centuries have dulled some memories, the Vandar actions and their role in the formation of Svertheim is common knowledge. Indeed, the Svertan term for trouble-making, crudeness, and pointless violence remains ‘Vandarism’ to this day.
In the fourth age the Vandar remain a difficult, but less threatening neighbour. This is in part due to their increased fragmentation. Now the northern clans benefit from trade with Svertheim while the southern clans continue to conduct sporadic but brutal raids on Vandaran and Svertan alike. Without any strong central leadership to deal with, Serdheim has been forced to deal with this relationship in an ad-hoc fashion, making alliances with certain Vandarans and even embarking on joint operations against Vandar aggressors.
While Vandaran personalities are as diverse as anywhere else in Aeldos, the Vandar are well known for being cautious and suspicious as a result of living in a particularly dangerous ecosystem. While they can be welcoming to outsiders and their traders are much like any other, they do tend to be far less genial and expressive than Svertans or even their Granden descendents.
Vandarans have a common cultural aversion to advanced technology, particularly anything from the first age, which many see as cursed. Vandaran Shamans and Lorekeepers tell numerous folk tales and stories emphasizing the role of technology in human weakness and the downfall of the Urul. This attitude isn’t universal, but it’s a powerful enough taboo that those who carry or use such artefacts tend to be seen in a poor light. This taboo has kept the Vandarans from moving beyond basic steel and stone as resources and as a result, most Vandaran settlements, and the Vandaran themselves are considered primitive by outsiders.
Religiously, the Vandaran are distinct in Aeldos, eschewing traditional Ayr worship. Instead many clans offer sacrifice and worship to strange, mysterious, or bestial deities or animistic spirits of the wilds rather than the Ayr. Some travelers report unique and mysterious creatures such as titan Mammuts, ephemeral Elk, and stone skinned Daedon, which are treated as clan totems. The exact nature of worship is, as with so many other Vandaran features, highly localized.
Vandaran military tradition favours warbands composed of between fifty and a hundred warriors, either on foot or on horseback and emphasizes hit and run attacks intended to harass and wear down enemies until they surrender rather than outright conquest. By Vandaran thinking, the more enemies taken into captivity to serve, the more the clan benefits. This does not mean the Vandaran are reluctant to kill, it just means many avoid avoid outright slaughter when other options exist.
With the exception of a few Tollam Felyagr, quasihumans are rarely found among the Vandarans. Bellatori and Tamaa tend to find the climate too cold, while Heliar, Kaeki and Oneiri find the people too hostile.
Warslavery: Vandarans slave culture is distinct from Ossandria and Granden. First, slaves are not purchased, they must be captured during raids or conflict. Secondly, they are not seen as property of an individual, but instead as new members of the tribe. Warslaves are treated as members of the clan and are expected to integrate into the clan as such. There are few prohibitions placed upon them and most Vandarans see the transfer of membership as essentially benign and unremarkable. This concept is familiar to Vandarans and Grandens who typically adapt to their new homes, but for Svertans the idea is alien and many die trying to escape back to Svertheim.
Polyamory: Vandaran concepts of freedom extend to multiple marriages which many clans practice. Both women and men often have many partners in sex and child rearing and family relationships can be staggeringly difficult to understand as a result.
Following: Some southern Vandar clans take the concept of marriage exceedingly seriously and first spouses are expected to commit suicide if their partner is lost. This means most warriors are unwed by tradition.
Baby Names: Vandaran babies have temporary names until the age of 2 or 3. These names are meant to ward off spirits of ill health, the result of superstitious reasoning in the face of high infant mortality. Example names include ayay (babys crying) or bagya (little shit), which are intended to confuse spirits, or names based on tentative future wishes such as agudai (great warrior) or uktei (wise woman).
Kungeld: A term meaning ‘man price’ and indicating a value placed on property and free people alike. If they are killed, taken, or damaged the Vandaran expect the guilty party to pay Kunegeld in restitution. The precise value of an individual is typically determined by outsiders such as wise women or hermits who are trusted to be impartial, but can range from dozens to thousands of geld depending on rank and title. Women are typically valued at twice that of men while children are half and the infirm a quarter. Warslaves have no associated price. Even southern Vandar warlords follow the tradition, often enticing followers by promising to pay higher Kungeld if they die in service. Payment can be made to Sept or Clan and more than a few feuds have been the result of failure to pay the appropriate price.
Food and Drink: Vandaran aversion to agriculture means that the most common Vandar foods are fresh game and foraged foods. What agriculture does exist tends to feed into the Vandaran love of alcohol, in particular Vodka or Arki as it is known, variants of which are made from both rye and potatoes.
The High Hunt: The most well known of the Vandar myths is the High Hunt. Each clan has its own variant but the common story tells of a company of figures, cloaked in white and carried on the backs of great black horses, who travel the sword peaks once a decade during the new moon. This cadre ventures into the forests of Vandar in search of worthy prey carrying long spears tipped with a sleeping poison, and accompanied by dozens of great spectral hounds with green eyes. Southern Vandarans say the hunters come from the Chillwaste, the echoes and spirits of an age now lost, while Northerners claim that these hunts are led by King Wautk, his huntsman Fuik, their hounds Goze and Garm, an old dead king of the peaks who stalk the forests to satisfy an ancient curse. Still others claim they are not human at all, but creations of the spirits themselves made to torment greedy hunters. Regardless of explanation, the legends say that if the hunters see a human that human is cursed to become prey, and prey pierced by their spears shall fall into an eternal slumber, turning to rock or tree. One favoured Vandaran pastime is pointing to features of the landscape and spinning tales about their former human shapes. Northern forest cats are said to be able to scare away the hunt which makes them welcome in most settlements and the High Hunt is said to be the origin of the common Northern fear of evenings of new moon.
The core weapons of the Vandaran include long hafted axes and spears, double edged swords, and composite bows. Vandar armour varies from leather and banded up to heavy plated depending on the tribe.
Storm Hunter: Known for undertaking extremely dangerous hunts
Moon Spear: Hunts during the full moon
Fire Tongue: Gifted orator and prolific vulgarian
Stone Blade: Known for using obsidian bladed weapons
Grave Ward: Guards a graveyard
Star Scribe: Skilled astronomers, navigators, and diviners
River Runner: Boatmen, anglers, and water hunters
Timber, Fur, Hides, Rare Medicinals, Whale oil
Better The Head of a Wasp Than the Tail of a Bear