The Empire of Carcassonne
Ruler: Empress Saotome Kwaidan (Avatar of Koki Teno, the Jewel Maiden)
Religion: Shinto (The Celestial Court)
The Empire of Carcassonne is a nation surrounded by the Carcassonne Woods, a forest filled with spirits and creatures that devour and mislead anyone who attempts to pass through them. The nation sealed itself from outside influence in 1005 AE, and has remained almost completely cut off from the other nations. The people of Carcassonne are called Carcassien.
Carcassonne is a feudal nation, ruled by the Empress, the incarnation of the Jewel Maiden. The nation follows ancestor worship and the reverence of the Fortunes, as well as the spirits of the land. They follow a strict code of honour that is similar to that of the Empire of Naipon, but the average citizen posses a joie de vivre that their brethren do not. Carcassiens take their duties seriously, but when it is time to celebrate or relax, they throw themselves into such things just as much.
Carcassonne is an Empire, and is ruled by Saotome Kwaidan, the current physical embodiment of Koki Teno, the mother of all kitsune. The ten-tailed Empress sits within Castle Carcassonne, and is said to be mercurial in her moods, seductive and sultry to one person, while cool and aloof with another, and downright hostile to a third, all within the same breath. Fortunately, her retainers see to the needs of most who would come to see her, so they are spared from her chaotic nature.
In the distant past, Carcassonne was founded by the Thunderbright Clan, who made contact with the spirits of the Carcassien Woods. The Woods opened a path to Naipon, a legendary realm to the people of Carcassonne, and trade and tradition crossed into Carcassonne from the distant land. Koki Teno, by tradition, manifested within the person of the Empress of Anaitha through the generations.
Carcassonne follows two codes of conduct -- the Eight-Fold Way and the Code of Chivalry, which was adopted from the Naipon Code of Bushido. While in some ways similar to the Code follows in Drachen and Tarantis, it is uniquely tailored to the Carcassien mind-set.
Carcassonne is surrounded by the spirits of nature (miko-kami) and by the faerie courts. With the spirit world so closely tied to Carcassonne, it is of little wonder that they revere the spirits and pay their respects to the land. The Carcassonne people have a caste system that they follow which aids in their interaction with the world around them. The Empress is worshipped as a divine figure, and only the greatest Faerie Queen or Amaterasu herself is of comparable status.
Beneath the Empress are the Noble Class, which are in turn called Knights or the Lords and Ladies. In the last century, the term Samurai has been used as well. The noble class is considered on par with the kami and the sidhe of the Carcassien Woods. They are given all due respect and reverence by those of lower caste.
Below the knights are the working class. The working class belongs to anyone who produces something of value for a living. Those within this caste includes farmers, weavers, and others who produce goods of value. This caste is sometimes called the 'half-caste', due to the fact they are considered people of value, but are not true lords and ladies.
Below the working class is the merchant caste. This class is seen with disdain, as they produce nothing for themselves, but buy and sell goods made by others. Those within this caste are sometimes called 'non-people'. They are interacted with only by necessity.
Below this class are the untouchable class. This caste is broken down into two ranks - those who do what 'must be done', but live in shame due to being unclean (those who prepare bodies, move corpses, clean the streets, and other jobs which involves being unclean) and those who are entertainers.
In addition, the Joshuite Faith is banned from practicing within the borders of Carcassonne, or within the Carcassien Woods.
The priest caste and the monk caste are two difficult castes to deal with in Carcassonne. The priest caste is just below that of the nobility, but influential priests can carry a lot of power if they have the favor of the nobles or the Imperial Court. In most cases, the priest is accepted as a member of the samurai caste, but of less rank than a given samurai themselves. Respect is given, and respect is expected from the priests. As such, priests who wish to hold influence follow the code of the knights, and are known to do so even better than some knights themselves.
Monks are lower than nobility, but higher than middle class. They are a conundrum in Carcassien society. They are not nobles, but have been known to become decent advisers to the noble who wishes someone that does not hold political aspirations. Most monks are former nobility who have retired, or orphans who have been adopted by the shrines and monasteries that are scattered around the region. The lower classes see something strange and different in the monk caste, as if they were touched by an 'other force'. The legends of incredible feats performed by monks litter many stories of the land.
Being an entertainer in Carcassonne is unusual, in that while they have no caste of their own (being of the lowest caste), their value allows them to act of a higher caste than they truly are. A skilled entertainer is given the same respect as a member of the working class. A great entertainer is treated with the respect of a knight. A legendary entertainer can almost hold as much respect as the Empress herself. Being able to use this respect is a delicate dance every entertainer must perfect themselves, and is combined by their skill, and the degree of power and prestige commanded by the person who becomes their patron. An entertainer with no admirers and no patrons has no value.
Like their cousins in Naipon, the people of Carcassonne revere their ancestors. The people of Carcassonne believe in ancestor spirits, the souls of one’s ancestors remaining in the afterlife to watch over and guide their descendants. Because of this strong belief system, the people of Carcassonne keep a strict code of conduct which appeases the spirits. A core belief of the Carcassien people is in purity of the soul, purity of mind, and purity of the body. The people of Carcassonne do not fear death, for if one dies and is pure of body, mind, and soul, they will join their ancestors in the afterlife, and will reincarnate to continue to fulfill their karma. One who is not pure however, risks falling from grace, and the punishments in the afterlife are severe indeed.
The Three Sins
The Carcassien people have learned of the Three Sins through their contact with Naipon, and have adopted the principles of their cousins over the seas in principle, if not in practice. Those who are able to hold true against the three sins are met with respect and sometimes envy, but it is not a mandatory practice.
Desire: A truth of enlightenment is to be accepting of what one has, and to desire nothing. For when one feels desire, they may act contrary to the needs of their family and of their lord. One understands that their life is not their own, but belongs to their lord and to their family, and one’s own desires mean nothing in comparison.
Fear: A true follower of bushido does not let fear control them. While they may feel fear, they act regardless, without hesitation. One who succumbs to fear hesitates, and is unable to act for their lord and family. A coward dies a thousand deaths in their mind, and puts the lives of all around them at risk, shaming their family and their lord. One accepts the presence of fear, but they never let it control them.
Regret: Mistakes are made. If one did not make mistakes, they could not learn from them. It is best for one to accept these mistakes, learn from them, and carry on. One does not dwell on the mistakes of the past, they accept their actions and the consequences, and then step forward without looking back. Regret can lead one to hesitate, or question their judgement. A true follower of bushido never hesitates, and accepts responsibility for their every word and deed.
Purity: The Carcassien people believe in keeping a clean, and will bathe at least twice a day as a practice. Those who do not bathe fall within two 'camps'. Either the person has made an oath to the spirits of the Woods (called chiminage) and is holy, or they do not care about themselves and are unclean. Blood and dead flesh are considered unclean to the Carcassonne people, but this taboo is not as powerful as it is in Naipon. Rabbit meat is accepted as part of the Carcassien diet, and leather is sometimes accepted as a necessity. Still, it is often the case that ritual blessings and purifications are performed -- just in case.
Face: People from Carcassien have a fierce code of honour, perhaps even more so than the Naiponese. A typical person from Carcassonne usually has two 'faces', one kept for when they are performing a duty, in which case they are stern and taciturn, or when they are relaxed, in which case the Carcassien shows a joie de vivre that can alarm most. An Carcassien does not blend these two faces, and considers someone who does not know when it is proper to be reserved to be disrespectful. Causing a loss of honour to a Carcassien is a grave insult, and will often result in a call for a duel. These duels are almost invariably a duel to the death, and can span generations. A dishonoured Knight considers their own lives worthless, but will not commit suicide unless there is no other recourse. Instead, they become fascinated with death, and will perform heroic and suicidal missions and tasks to try to be killed, or until the stain of their dishonour has passed. Most dishonoured knights choose a sacred and impossible quest, and then strive to fulfil it.
Love: The Carcassien people have a strange relationship with love, and some would say they are obsessed with the concept of love. The Carcassien people love to read stories of doomed lovers, tragic love affairs, and hopeless quests involving love. Romance is a wonderful thing in Carcassonne, and those who fall in love plunge totally into the experience, but such things are kept discrete and hidden away from public eyes. A subtle romance performed with skill is admired by those around the lovers, with the observers remaining a polite distance from the romance, living it vicariously. Poetry and songs created from a romance are excellent ways to gain face, as long as the romance is not brought into full view and discretion is kept.
Discretion is vital when it comes to Carcassien romance, because in the end, love is a fleeting thing. Children are sworn to wed, and marriages are arranged. If one is truly fortunate, they may be allowed to marry the person they love, but this is by far the exception and not the rule. As in most nations, marriage is done for political reasons, to cement alliances, to keep bloodlines pure, or to raise someone’s station. Love is something that is expected to come later in a marriage, if at all.
Children are sworn to wed, sometimes before birth. ("My first born daughter will marry your first born son"). While children and teenagers may dally behind the scenes discretely, the marriage is expected to take place, and may unify families, consolidate power, facilitate trade, settle debts, or end disputes or feuds. A child can be sworn to one or more people, depending on many factors, and while it is not common a child may find himself marrying multiple wives, or a woman may find herself with multiple husbands. There are many factors in play when it comes to marriage - and most decisions are made by the Elder - the head of the family line (usually the oldest or most powerful member of the family).
- The Elder chooses who is available for marriage, and who they will marry. The word of the Elder is final. If someone does not wish to marry, they can go "rogue". This involves leaving the family, and taking the surname 'du Lac', and is effectively disowned by the family. The family will often provide a small allowance to the wayward child, depending on what name he or she makes for themselves. A member who takes the name du Lac is permanently cut off from the family politically, and can never inherit.
- The Elder will usually choose to have each child in the family married off. If a certain arrangement would be particularly beneficial, he may choose to have a child married to more than one partner. The first betrothal is always considered the 'primary' marriage, with any other husbands or wives as 'secondary'. The first husband or wife has propriety over any other members of the family, and is considered the authority of the household below the head of the household themselves. Once someone has married into the family, they answer to the Elder of that family. More often than not, the head of the household will have multiple spouses, rather than the first spouse or later spouses having multiple partners.
- For example: The Elder has the first son of the Delacroix Family marry. His wife is considered the First Wife. Later, the Elder finds a particularly useful marriage, and has Delacroix marry again, giving Delacroix a Second Wife. In theory, the Elder may have the First Wife marry again, but this is not likely.
- Another reason that multiple marriages are uncommon is due to political pressure. If a family is seen expanding too quickly and consolidating too much power, their political rivals may attack. It is not too uncommon for cousins to marry inward to consolidate lands and family ties, and this is often given more leniency. For example, if three brothers want to unite their lands, they may have their children unite in marriage to consolidate land titles later.
- The harmony of the household is important as well. If the First Spouse refuses the marriage, it will not happen, in spite of the Elder's wishes, much as if the family head refuses to have their spouse married to someone else.
- Finally, financial matters are considered. If the household cannot afford to expand, then the marriage will not be approved. The dowry provided to the family is considered, but the household and estates must be financially viable after the marriage.
Because of these factors, while plural marriages are legal and binding, they are uncommon except for in the consolidation of family estates.
Much like their Naiponese brethren, the Carcassien people believe in the reverence of the kami. They follow the principles of the Celestial Court, and know that their Empress is a goddess who carries the mandate of heaven. As such, those who do not understand and acknowledge the authority of the Celestial Court is misled. They are not as cold with outsiders as the Naiponese are, but are still somewhat xenophobic. The Joshuite Faith is outlawed within Anaithan territory, and the Arin and Rymnian faith are only just tolerated. In addition, the samurai caste system is rigidly enforced, and it is expected that those born to their caste will know their place and their karma, and will act accordingly. Foreigners are ‘outside’ the caste system, and thus have no place – though very few Carcassien will speak of such matters, considering such topics to be embarrassing to others. The idea of moving against the status quo is anathema to the Carcassien mind-set.
Inspiration and Flavour
Combine King Arthur’s Britain with Feudal Japan, and combine it with a language very similar to French. The nation of Carcassonne is a rich tapestry of colour, where everything is alive, and the spirits of the land are visible day to day. With the presence of the Empress, and her retinue, there is a constant reminder of the divine status of the sovereign. The people of Carcassonne accept their place under divine rule.
Depending on the mood and fashion of the time, the children of Carcassonne may choose either the names below, or names from
Naipon. This usually changes every three to five years. As is custom, when a child comes of age (usually 14 or 15), they choose
a name for themselves. Until a child comes of age, they are usually given titles such as ‘number one son’ or ‘first daughter’.
Depending on the parents, the children may be given the title Du <name of father> or Du <name of mother> depending on if
the child is a boy or a girl. Some keep this as a last name after they come of age.
Male: Alain, Armand, Bastien, Blaise, Clovis, Corbeau, Dax, Dior, Elie, Etienne, Fleming, Francois, Gilles, Gustave, Harvey, Henri, Jacques, Jocelin, Lancelot, Leon, Marc, Mirage, Neville, Normandie, Oriel, Orleans, Percival, Pierre, Quincy, Remi, Reynard, Sabin, Sylvain, Thiergy, Triage, Vachel, Vermont, Wisconsin, Xarles, Yves
Female: Amie, Arianne, Belle, Brigette, Caprice, Cerise, Diane, Dominique, Elise, Etoile, Faye, Fleur, Gabrielle, Genevieve, Helene, Hilde, Isabelle, Ivette, Jeannie, Juliette, Lenore, Lorraine, Madeleine, Marianne, Nadine, Natalie, Odette, Orielle, Patrice, Pleasance, Quincy, Raine, Renee, Sophie, Sylvie, Therese, Tristessa, Urbaine, Valerie, Veronique, Wisconsine, Xaviere, Yvette, Yvonne
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