* Scribe's Note: This role has since been taken by a young god called Cyric.Surrounding the stages of life
When it comes to birth, adulthood, marriage and death, you may notice the people of Impiltur practice some unusual customs. As an observer rather than a practitioner I can only do my best to explain them.
Childbirth appears to be a sacred affair. Both the laws of marriage and other, unspoken rules seem to be centered around giving children the best opportunities in the name of the Triad.
The first year of a child's life is something of a test. A test to see if the child survives and is worthy of being named, but a test for the mother as well. It is held that her ability to cope with suffering, to perform her maternal duties and to do right by the child determine how blessed it is for the rest of its life.
Both friends and complete strangers can and will be quick to correct a young mother in the interest of the child. I have noticed that punishments are lightened or postponed during the pregnancy and its following year, I have even heard that criminals do not dare lay hands upon them.
Upon the end of that first year the child is named in ceremony by a priest. Anyone who is interested is welcome to attend and is served what I can only describe as a small tube of bread in celebration. By the end of the day, the mysterious protection is lifted.
If the child was born out of wedlock or the mother faces some severe punishment, I hear it is then brought to a monastery or temple to be raised like so many orphans. The parents are given a fine equal to the sum needed to raise the child there.
Twice a year, children aged 12 and over compete for the right of adulthood. These events take place all over the land on the first clear day after the equinox. Families leave their villages behind to gather in towns or at special locations for a day of games.
Every child is expected to participate in up to three contests, pitting their talents against at least five others in each event. Boys tend to favour the physical challenges, girls those of skill. I find that gender works here as it does in many aspects of Impilturan life. There are certain expectations, but no absolute limitations for those who wish to break with them.
Being an ancient tradition, these trials of adulthood are full of contradictions. A child must win an event to be considered an adult from that point forth and they must perform to the best of their ability. Yet it is considered inappropriate to win more than the single event required or to do so with too much ease. A missing rival, cheaters and partial judges are all cause to decline adulthood and compete again six months later. I have not been able to determine if adulthood eventually sets in without a trial or whether there are forty year old children in the country even now. You will find many people here who have honed but a single talent in childhood, forever ignoring their other gifts or taking undeserved pity upon those with a much more rounded set of skills. The belief that the gods bless everyone with a single great talent seems a product of the culture rather than the divine to me.
III. Attitudes & Gender Roles
Traditional male attitudes towards women in Impilturan society has seen a gradual shift following years of hardship and war, where those women who survived were forced to defend themselves and to care not only for the young and old, but also their husbands, sons and fathers who came home wounded in battle. By no means have men in these households succumbed to the labours of mundane chores such as cooking, cleaning and caring for infants - indeed, these are duties still expected of a woman by Impilturan society at large. Thrust a babe into the arms of an Impilturan male and he will pass it on to the next woman beside him, so the saying goes, regardless of whether she is a soldier or a farmer.
With Queen Regent Sambryl as the current figurehead of power, Impilturan society has seen their men nod in respect to a woman's wishes rather than the abrupt dismissal as soon as she tries to assert her own independent opinion or express aspirations to positions traditionally occupied by males. A woman who wishes to cast off her dress for a suit or a set of armour will generally be met with typical Impilturan politeness; flagrant disapproval is only generally shown if the so-called independent woman displays a strongly aggressive stance that marks her as unfaithful, disloyal, and untrustworthy.
Following the trials of adulthood, men in particular must apply their skill to create a stable income and a reliable reputation before they may start a family. Since most people never stray far from their place of birth and apprenticeships are costly, there is little social mobility and most are simply employed by a neighbour or relative. For women, the path to marriage is paved by a dowry paid by the head of her household.
From speaking with several middle-class women you would think this custom is slowly dying. Certainly it dates back to a nation far older and more retarded than that of the Heitharn Dynasty and has proven persistent, but ever more women take up the same trades as men and make their own choices. Even women in their 20s are as yet unwed and childless and they claim to be glad for it. Beyond the cities, such decisions are tolerated but often ill understood.
Marriage itself is very much a legal affair, having more to do with the protection of a child and rights of inheritance than with any feelings of attraction. We have come to expect strongly suggested and arranged marriages amongst the upper classes, but you will find it is true in all layers of society here. Family is too important throughout an Impilturan's life to ignore. For whilst the destination of tools and coin will matter after death, good relationships matter in life.
An official marriage needs the consent of the couple, the heads of their households and their feudal lord or lords. The marriage ceremony consists of little more than a testimony that this is the case from couple and parents, after which their lord wishes them good luck with it. Husband and wife are then expected to serve a public banquet in accordance with their means and may not leave until every well-wisher has received some manner of food and drink.
A marriage can be disbanded if it does not produce a child within the first three years, if the ceremony involved falsehood or duress or if the parents are unable to provide a decent standard of living for the child. They must also set a good example on matters of law and religious values. Deliberate sabotage is punished harshly, but I have not come across such other provisions for divorce as we might take for granted.
After the death of a spouse, widows and widowers are not forbidden from marrying anew, but it is uncommon for them to do so when they have children.
If this sounds dull and listless to you, I can assure you that it is. But make no mistake, these people do experience passionate loves. It is a widely held belief that everyone has a true love somewhere in the world, yet they are separated by evil and the fates. Pursuing such love is acceptable, even for those who are married, as long as one also plans for the likelyhood it will never be found.
When you meet someone you would like to pursue romantically, it is customary to send them a series of anonymous gifts culminating in some manner of outfit. If the object of their affections should be seen wearing that outfit it is an invitation to introduce yourself. At any point afterwards, either party can end the courtship with a gift of yellow flowers. It would be very ill considered to ignore such a sign so I advise you to take it to heart whether you intend to conquer a local or end unwanted affections.
Otherwise, I believe all the universal principles of romance apply. Compliments and smiles, poetry and conversation, strolls and activities, held hands and kisses, they are all acceptable in their own time. Watching the first melt of spring together is a popular activity and certainly much safer than wrestling a plains bear for its autumn coat.
There are only a few restrictions to mind. First, you would do well to avoid drawing too much attention to your relationship since brazenly flaunting the affair in public is considered inappropriate. Second, romantic attention is not to be divided. For example, when the lady Rilaunyr of Sune was first appointed as Sarshel's youngest Lord of Imphras, it was said she would need a year to count a week's worth of tokens. Certainly they each deserved recognition. Yet to pursue more than one man at the same time would be a horrific insult to both of them.
Frictions between her suitors would be resolved in a duel or competition, but only ever in good spirit. Death, like pregnancy outside wedlock and the disruption of the peace of marriage, is never acceptable in pursuit of love. After the first months of unrest and rivalry over the lady Rilaunyr, I hear the number of gifts decreased dramatically to barely a few hundred a week.
In old age there are few surprises. When frailty or a lasting illness strikes, the importance of family is once again made clear. There are few facilities for the elderly beyond kin and caring neighbours. Those who live alone will often die alone, although wandering priests may offer some relief.
I have heard one remarkable tale of a mythical place in the Earthspur Mountains where they may find an endless vitality. When people in the many frontier villages become a burden to their loved ones, some hopeful souls prepare for a final journey and pray they do not fall to the weather, the beasts or the terrain along the way.
For those who die at home, it is common to observe the final customs of their religion. To most of Impiltur that means calling for a priest of Ilmater who is to spend one night with the family of the departed before performing the burial and funeral rites. Many will tithe to Myrkul* in secret whilst the priest is busy with a shovel. Under the Triadic religion, only those who died of a contageous or mysterious illness and those who died in numbers too vast to inter are burned or dissolved.
Symbolic death gifts are not uncommon, usually involving food and drink, a dagger, some coins, gems or jewelry for bribes, a treasured item or a key so the soul may drift freely. I gather that vast wealth, tools or weapons are often too valuable to spare, but that may be a rumour to dissuade grave robbing since at least one of my native colleagues frequently japes about the things he would want to take along. Not all of them decent.
If you have visited an Impilturan crypt, you will have noticed not everyone rests alike. Some are buried plainly whilst others get coffins. Some are placed in alcoves whilst others get a sarcophagus or a roomy tomb. I understand it happens that older bodies are moved to more cramped confines, particularly when descendants no longer pay for the maintenance of their resting place. Particularly devout followers may find themselves entombed without some or all of their hair, nails and even major bones, which are kept as the relics of a potential saint. But only high status in life can guarantee a glorious resting place.
To help you interpret the setting and game mechanics.
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"To Antares Dellemir, esteemed merchant lord of Selgaunt, in preparation of your journey," the following excerpt comes from the hand of the diplomat Weirrard Rildenbar in an effort to shed light on the life and customs of a nation.
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