Culture name: Paraxai Mythos: the sea, the wind, the rock, the shifting grass, the creatures of this world, the light of the sun, and the holy estrangement of the color white There is the land, and there is the sea. Above it all: the sun. The land is red, furred with green forest. Brown dust covers it entire. Here are places of shadow: some, of wood, thatch, and brick, shelter our hearths and our heads. Others, under the mountains, hold things which we shall not discuss with you who are not of us. But the land has edges. The sea envelops it, defines it, consumes it. The hardiest rock will wear down to sand, just by the pounding of the waves. But consider this, too: the sea has no shade. It takes all the light which reaches it, the white of the sun making the whole surface bluer than the sky. And when it storms... Well, truly, is that not the hand of the Greater? So much white, so much fury, concentrated into a declaration of apotheosis. But the sun is majesty itself. It hangs over all, watching, illuminating. There is nowhere that cannot feel it, besides those places where the land betrays it, and those depths of the ocean where there is white of a different kind. The sun is the source of the white, and for this, well -- for this there is no equal. Consider that the colors of the world are dull. There are greens, browns, blues, reds. But where is white? We find it in some flowers. In the crests of great waves. In the light of the all-powerful sun. And, for that reason, in the unblemished robes of our priests. What is white is outside the natural order, no? All holy things are this way. You do not see the holy in the death of the whale, when the bronze blade of the lance is driven through its heart? Do you not see how it is holy when the mountains rise so high from the sea that you cannot believe the wind and waves have moved it? When the grasslands all sway together in the wind and in the light? You do not even see how white is not of us, and of something more? I wonder if your priests even counsel you on your quest for the divine. I hesitate to ask. Society: shipfolks, merchants, fishermen, raiders, and whalers The Paraxai are a predominantly coastal people. The vast majority live in clusters of stout buildings lining the shores of their islands. While not every member of a village spends their life in a boat, every Paraxai knows how to behave in one. As it stands, the vast majority are fishermen, at least seasonally. Some goatherds, rice farmers, and orchard-keepers grow substantial stocks of food, though. Bronzeworkers, craftsmen, and builders are other professions that tend to hew to the shores. Priests will, at times, take to sea for ceremonies, but typically stay on land. But at sea... They come fast, and leave as quickly. There are some specialized varieties of boats, namely some sturdier, tubbier constructions more reliant on sails (for long distance trade or for fishing). The prototypical Paraxai boat, though, is a sleek, mean thing. Long, with a pointed prow, it is often made from a single, massive tree (although some larger ships are built with viking-style planking). Their prows are carved with fearsome depictions of whales, the sun, or mythical beasts. They are multipurpose: even with a full complement of rowers, they can carry an appreciable volume of freight or loot, or, if several work together, can even tow a slain whale to shore. For long journeys, coverings can be put over the open deck, masts with sails can be erected, and outriggers can be deployed for stability. This enables Paraxai ships to make long sea journeys, impossible to some other cultures. These journeys have religious meaning, as well: how else to alienate yourself so much, in so much white, that you encounter the divine? In any case, the Paraxai are far ranging traders and raiders. While these two practices may seem diametrically opposed, to the Paraxai (and perhaps to others in the region), they are essentially the same. Consider that, given the widespread island nature of Paraxai culture, and the general uneven distribution of resources and access in the Paraxai archipelago, settlements are most effective in supporting the society at large when they specialize based on their surroundings and exchange this specialized production with the greater social order. The same responsibility holds for the Nakutay and others in the archipelago, as well: or, at least, this is how the Paraxai view the situation. The fact of the matter is that without a diverse array of goods being exchanged, all the communities in the system would face fatal deprivation of certain commodities, be they oil, foodstuffs, wood, bronze, or other things. Therefore, the question is not whether there should be exchange or flow of goods, but how it should be undertaken. For the Paraxai, there are two answers. The first is trade. Two communities can exchange "gifts," with the understanding that this is a flow of goods that does not cause any loss of face, but still supplies necessary items to those who require them. This gift exchange is what amounts to trade. Communities can even request, or make known through communication, what gifts are expected or needed, and what they will give in exchange. In this way, the Paraxai have a highly effective internal trade network which crosses vast spans of ocean. This network also reaches across to other parts of the cradle, to varying degrees, and ensures a widespread circulation of goods and surpluses. However, should trade deals or gifts be unfavorable, there is another way to facilitate the circulation of necessary supplies. This is raiding. Consider this: if the goods that a given community needs must be obtained for the community's own survival, and that community's survival and ability to produce its own specialized production is key to the survival of the broader culture and region, then a given community is justified in doing what it must in order to get the goods it needs. Thus, merchants and raiders are often the same people in the Paraxai continuum. Raids are seen as another form of material exchange, and, generally, are relatively bloodless. The speed and range of Paraxai ships mean that overwhelming force can be brought and concentrated with frightening rapidity, discouraging any resistance, and can leave and escape just as quickly. Sometimes, though, conflicts can emerge: naval wars and shore raids can grow vicious and deadly, especially if the foe is one which does not recognize the legitimacy or necessity of the trade-raid dynamic (it's typically well understood by lower level groups, or by groups which also understand the hard press of specialization in the semiarid islands, but more "civilized" or dogmatic societies tend to be more confused). This system of governing economic relations, though, is founded on the basis of sufficient watercraft being available to support it. Everyone, even those who spend their lives inland, need at least some access to a ship, or some social bond that will ensure their products can be moved on one. Therefore, Paraxai society is structured around extended kinship networks centered on ship ownership. Ships are generally a communal utility, and shares of income are divided based on contribution to the outgoing cargo carried on Paraxai vessels. Obviously, there are inequalities: some wealthier members of society may have subservient ship-clans, from which they draw shares, and, obviously, captains and leaders derive additional material income for their greater services. Sample sentences: Xás tje! Xás tje! Pus bi ní kado hai údjon zá xás tje ya! White light, sunlight! Fall on all our ships as they sail, like the rays of the rising sun. Zárenana do sa gang kóxu háxa só gaNákutáikjam! He could sell a whalebone carving to a Nakutay! Vowels: i (queen) y (round your lips while saying ee) u (spoon) a (Kinshasa) ɔ (ought) e (get) Consonants: p b t d k g s z x (voiceless alveolo-palatal fricative) j (as in yellow) l r (usually a tap, like in Spanish pero or American English butter) m n ng h (varies in pronunciation from similar to english to huskier, as in Arabic 2) Tone: high (indicated like so: í ú á é etc.) and low (unmarked) Phenotypes: pretty solidly maasai, but there is a decent amount of variation. In the northern islands, some people look more Yemeni or Horn of African, for instance. Claims: The temperate islands (and the southernmost few of the semiarid islands) of the far central south Important question: are there elephants on those islands?