Okay, I wasn't really sure where else to put this, but here's where Fifth Day comes from :D
The kingdom of Jen’Hahn is a composite kingdom, comprised of two different ethnic cultures: the Jennites and the Ahahns. Though it has been unified for centuries, the cultural and political divides within the nation have remained a constant source of internal strife.
Jen’Hahn is an expansive country which, at first glance, seems locked in perpetual winter; this is not so, but it is true that the majority of the year does see a decent snowfall across most of the country. To the north and to the west are mountains and thick pine forests; to the east are wide sweeping fields fed by alpine rivers, and a narrow inlet to the White Sea. There are several glacial lakes dotting the landscape, both in the craggy mountains in the north and on the open plains of the east; glaciers build in the northern and western mountains every winter, and carve southwards with the thaw, bringing fresh water and alpine minerals to the plains. The south of the country is largely uninhabited, due to the annual glacial movements which reshape the landscape, the large and dangerous wildlife, and the rumours (and sightings) of monsters; for this reason, the south is often called the Vale of Teeth, the Plain of Claws, the Savage Dales, or other similar titles.
Centuries ago, the warlike Ahahn people were subjugated by the civilised magic-using Jennite people of the east, and, as such, their territories were united to form the country as it is today. History books are vague as to why such a takeover was necessary, though current propaganda proclaims that the values of the Jen way of life needed to be shared with the world. Apparently, the Ahahn people attempted to crush the beauty of civilisation in its first flower, and the Jennite ancestors had to crush the barbarian insurrection before too many lives were lost. Jennite culture has since been imposed - or subtly insinuated - into Ahahn lands. As a result, much of the Ahahn culture - including many artistic and religious practices - has been lost.
Jen is the term used to refer to the eastern regions of the country. This area is green and fertile, fed by alpine rivers, and is the spring and summer pasture for many of the migrating herds of animals. Jen also has a small cove into what is known as the White Sea (which might be a misnomer - some explorers insist this is nothing more than a large lake), providing access to other lands when it isn’t frozen solid. However, Jen does not have a need for a navy, and everything they need or want is found within the borders of Jen’Hahn. Jen also views itself as the more civilised region of the country, as compared to the barbaric Ahahn region. The people of Jen tend to be blonde or brunette, green- or blue-eyed, and tall; moustaches and beards are only worn by nobility or royal magicians.
Given that the climate is much milder than that of Ahahn, Jen possesses more permanent settlements. Its important buildings - such as trading halls, homes of nobility, and taverns - are primarily stone and timber, often with double walls so that there can be an insulation of straw or moss between the two outer walls of a building. The homes of the commonfolk are usually made from timber, earth, and moss. Craftsmanship is highly prized here, and it is very rare to find a stone that is not shaped, or a piece of timber that has not been carved into a motif. Even the pillars and beams within buildings are decorated and polished, and the main highways between the cities are made from cobblestones that have pictures, poems, names carved into them.
The main language that is spoken is Havati, “Snow-tongue”. Jen nobility and magicians also speak in Gyessen, “High Speech”, but this language is not spoken outside palaces or magic halls.
Given that Jen views itself as superior to the culture of the Ahahn, there should be no surprise that cultural achievements are viewed very highly. Those with gifts in music, poetry, song, or dance can always find a warm welcome within the city walls, and travelling skalds are often given a free drink or whatever else they require when encountered by merchant trains or military units on patrol. The art of writing is also valued highly, but mostly by mages and the nobility; having a child with the skill of penmanship can see a family gaining a title, or at the very least a very comfortable life in the patronage of a lord or vassal. Jewel crafters, metalworkers, ivory carvers, weavers and clothiers also occupy a high status in society - even if that status is nominal and have no root in reality. A beggar may achieve acclaim for his fine carvings, but without a family or someone to back him, he’s still just a beggar.
Feasts of sidereal and lunar significance within Jen take place on auspicious days decided months in advance by the astrologers of the royal court. There are also days of honour for stereotypes that define the culture of Jen, such as the Good Soldier, the Loyal Worker, the Productive Wife, the Skilled Artisan, the Sweet-Voiced Skald, and the Great Mage. On days of festivals that pertain to them, individuals can always be assured of a free drink or bed in any of the taverns dotting Jen’s landscape. Birthdays of royal personages are also matters of ceremony the country over, though more so in lands that are loyal to such individuals.
Government & Society
Jen’Hahn is a monarchy in name only; the regions of Jen are divided up by powerful feudal lords, though all of these lords are - in theory - loyal and answerable to the king. In reality, some of these lords have more political strength and larger standing armies, and could easily take the throne by force if they should so wish. As such, the so-called civilised world of the Jennites is constantly under pressure, taut and capable of snapping at any time. Espionage is commonplace, as are minor skirmishes between lords (usually born out of petty squabbles over land, property, or perceived slights). The king rarely interferes, as he is not only protected by tradition but also by the legions of mages and magic-users who are raised and trained within his courts and capital city. Unlike the soldiers and lords of Jen’Hahn, the mages are trained from birth to support the royal family, and are fiercely loyal. There is an old prophecy that has been interpreted to mean that should a Jennite magician ever swear fealty to another, the whole country would fall into chaos within the year, so every precaution is taken to ensure that this does not come to pass.
Jennite society is highly patriarchal; women are expected to stay home, bear children and tend the hearth, while the men fight, work and take up many of the roles within society. However, that does not mean that women cannot rise above their “station” without having to resort to marriage or the birth of three or more sons - many of the finest weavers and tailors are women, skalds can be of either gender, and there are many female magic users within the royal court. There is a significant network of guilds within Jen society, which oversee pricing, quality, and protection for its members. A member of the Tailors’ Guild will find it far easier to have his work sold than someone who is not. Those with magical talent - whether by birth or by training - are seen as the pinnacle of Jennite breeding; martial strength, while impressive, is brutish and unbecoming of a member of the civilised Jennite race. As such, Jennite guards are often merely for decoration, and most of those who actually do the fighting are paid - or unpaid - Ahahn mercenaries.
Vessar - The capital city of Jen’Hahn and the seat of Jennite power. Location of the first and the largest Magical University, an imposing tower of ice-whitened marble built into the side of a cliff. Location of the royal palace, an imposing stone-and-timber dome in the centre of the city, which is surrounded by an ice wall and countless magical wards.
Orick - the main military town, where martial training for those a part of the king’s army. Lords and officers also train here before returning to their fief.
Icewave - port city. Though the White Sea is frozen solid for most of the year, some boats are needed for fishing or whaling.
Ahahn is the term used to refer to the northern and western regions of the country. This area is incredibly rugged, with mountains, valleys, and the source of the glaciers which carve up the southern steppes on an annual basis. The weather here is harsh and often unforgiving, with bitter winters and short summers. Thickly forested with pine and other evergreens, and difficult terrain to cross let alone chart, it is the home to the “barbaric” Ahahn people. Despite this generalisation, the Ahahn people are made up of a complex web of clans, tribes, fealties and territorial rulers. To the outside observer, this would appear to make the people disorganised and weak. However, it is to be noted that the Ahahn people were the original inhabitants of Jen’Hahn, and were a strong and united people until the introduction and imposition of Jennite culture and rule. The Ahahn people are well-built, either with a lithe or a stocky strength to them. The Ahahn of the plains have eyes of brown, green or hazel, and dark brown or black hair; in the mountains, eye and hair colouring tends towards the pale (an amusing myth tells of a tribe who was so snow-white that they melted in the summer).
There is no particular uniform method for construction within the Ahahn. While permanent settlements were utilised by certain clans before the arrival of the Jennites, the majority of clans are semi-nomadic. Yurts made from animal hide, timber lean-tos, mud-brick huts, and even ice houses are typical housing for the Ahahn people; what they build depends on their tribe, and their location. Those who live in the foothills tend to have structures that can be packed up and moved easily, to follow the herds; in the mountains, there are a few “towns” constructed around a particular tribal leader, but the majority of the buildings are not built to survive multiple seasons. There is no one strict rule about this, however. One community in the mountains is a collection of small family yurts erected around a large stone-and-timber hall - in the winter, each family takes down their tents and moves into the single hall, for warmth and for community strength. There are a few more permanent settlements built in the tundra and foothills close to Jennite territory (built by Jennite lords seeking to claim more territory for themselves), and these are populated by a mix of Ahahn and Jennite people in an uneasy accord; tolerance exists for the simple purpose of trade and power.
Havati is spoken by most of the Ahahn, though different tribes and clans will also have their own dialects. There is also Urvati, “Hunting-Tongue”, used by warriors to communicate with each other by means of whistles and animal calls while stalking their prey (whether animal or otherwise). Some elders and certain remote tribes also speak a near-dead language called Porarivati, “Tree-Earth-Life-Tongue”, though not much is known about these tribes or their language.
As Ahahn is primarily a survivalist culture, the majority of art revolves around the craft of weaponry, whether that is smithing, armour-making, skill with a certain weapon (or weapons), or hunting or battle prowess. However, they also hold those with other skills in regard as well - without furriers, tentmakers, carpenters, silversmiths, tailors, and skalds, there would be nothing to hold the Ahahn together. They need shelter, warmth, clothing, song and craft in order to keep the living alive, to keep the hunters safe, and to preserve the memory of the fallen. However, there are very few “specialists” within Ahahn society. It is thought that if you do not have the skills you need to keep yourself alive, you’re no better than a mewling Jennite child. At the same time the Ahahn promote independence, however, there is also a significant stress on the importance of family and community, or at least working in tandem with those around you. “One does not keep warm alone” is a popular saying within many Ahahn societies (which leaves Jennite scholars concluding that all manner of illicit behaviour is not only tolerated, but the norm within Ahahn society. They couldn’t be more wrong).
Festivals are often on a seasonal basis, celebrating Spring, Summer, Winter and Autumn. There are also celebrations of the annual herd migrations, with festivals for the return of the deer, the alpine goat, the geese and the mammoth populations. Different tribes may also place different importance on certain plants or animals; a mountain tribe might mourn the sight of the geese flying south, while a plains tribe might celebrate the first flowers after the snow. There are rumours (spread by the Jennites) that the Ahahns practice primitive tribalism, and worship certain totem animals, but as far as most Ahahn can tell these rumours have no basis in history or fact.
Government & Society
Given that Ahahn is not unified under a single ruler - except, theoretically, under the Jen’Hahn king - there are many different measures of political power within the region. First, there is family, which refers to a husband and wife, their children, their children’s wives and daughters, grandparents, grandchildren, cousins, etc - the concept of family is quite uncertain, though blood ties are usually the strongest indication. A clan refers to a community of families; a tribe is a collection of clans, or of families with similar backgrounds, hunting grounds, trade arrangements or beliefs. The strongest warrior in a family is seen as the head of his family; the three wisest, strongest and most skilled members of a clan are looked to for leadership in their fields; the most influential clan members in certain area - particularly those who have lived more that 40 winters - are viewed as Elders, and people will cross territories for advice from these men and women, even crossing clan borders.
The Ahahn people, as a general rule, would be more willing to stand with their family, their clan, their tribe, or Ahahn as a whole rather than some upstart magic-user, or answer a summons by the king. As a martial society, however, many clans, tribes, and individuals fight - usually unwillingly - as mercenaries with Jennite nobility; there are constant battles between the feudal lords, and Ahahn warriors see this as an opportunity to not only prove themselves, but to free each other from the bonds that have been closed around them. Death in battle - or at the hand of a skilled opponent - is seen as the best death one can hope for.
Magic is viewed with intense suspicion, and sometimes even hostility. In a world where you live or die by the choices you make and the skills you possess, it is viewed as a perversion to draw on lights and deception in order to defeat your enemy. Legend holds that magic was brought into the world by demons, another reason most Ahahns shun it. However, there are a few tribes scattered across the country that do use “demon-light”. Such tribes are outcast, “Light-Touched”, and unwelcome within Ahahn proper. Jennite nobility have seized the opportunity to educate and promote such clans within their culture, giving them preference, wealth and effectively turning a blind eye to anything the Light-Touched inflict on their fellow Ahahns.
There are no particular defined gender roles within Ahahn culture. A woman is seen just as capable as a man, if not more so; daughters are often trained more strenuously in weaponry than sons, simply because it is believed that the additional strength is a boon when it comes to the struggle of a birthing children. There are very few deaths in childbirth of Ahahn women, though whether this is a result of the training or some other factor, it is not known. The Ahahn are quite careful about bloodlines, keeping careful track of whose children belong to whom and making sure that those who are too closely related do not produce children. They call this “keeping the blood clean”, a phrase which refers to rivers being blocked by detritus upstream, and therefore causing what is downstream to suffer from lack of pure water. Jennite scholars mock this, claiming barbarians know nothing of purity of blood; the Ahahn, in return, are disgusted by the Jennite tendency towards incest and inbreeding.
Jeset - One of the largest mountain settlements of the north, it is not so much a city as a large town with several smaller hamlets around it.
Layrl - a “border town” that is rebuilt in the same location every spring in order for trade between Jen and Ahahn.
Atour - A Light-Touched city in the east of the country, closest to Jen. Notorious for its pit fights and its slave market. Stone buildings and cobblestone streets, in a style similar to Jennite cities, though made from black stone from the south.
The majority of travel and trade is done in the summer, when the paths are clear of ice and movement is unimpeded by snow or hungry animals; even so, contact between the two halves of the country are minimal at best, with most trade being conducted in certain “border towns” in the foothills, which is seen as neutral territory by both the Jennites and the Ahahns. One such border town is Layrl, which is more a collection of market stalls and merchant tents on a plateau between the two regions every spring and summer. Another is Atour, though most Ahahns do not willingly come to this place for trade, given its reputation and those who live here. Neither the Jennites nor the Ahahns are completely dependant on the other culture for what they need to survive, though there is a decent-enough trade in ‘exotic’ material from either culture that business is an acceptable part of their coexistence. Ahahn exports fur, worked silver, raw metals (silver, iron and copper), leather and hides, dried meats, ivory and bone carvings, cheese, alcohol, live animals (such as domesticated reindeer, martins, snow leopards, talking ravens) and timber. Jen exports clothing, wool, salt, whale oil, raw gold, artworks (tapestries, wood carvings, jewellery, etc), paper, worked metal items (cooking pots, lanterns, etc) and magic items. Weapons and armour are jealously guarded, though raw materials for making such things are freely traded.
There is also a significant slave trade within the nation. While mercenary armies are common enough around Jen’Hahn (of both ethnicities), the standing armies of many feudal lords are made up of Ahahns forced into service and kept in captivity through the use of magic. Bands of Light-Touched Ahahns roam the country, generally indistinguishable from other Ahahns in appearance, which makes it easy for them to enter a family camp, wait until an unguarded moment, and capture everyone with spells and shackles. In previous generations, magic users were branded upon their discovery, so they could be immediately told apart from normal Ahahns; this is no longer the case. For many younger generations of magic-using Ahahns who have been brought up in Jennite cities, they look no different, though an accent or a mannerism - or even a careless spell - may give them away. Some Elders can apparently see an aura around an individual; auras can apparently show whether or not a person is blessed by a spirit or a god, or under the influence of a demon.
There is no official state religion of Jen’Hahn, though ancestor, hero, and spirit worship are common country-wide. Some remote Ahahn tribes practice some from of druid-based nature worship, but little is known about these rites, who practices them, or what purpose such rites serve.
The southern section of the country is largely uninhabited by citizens of Jen’Hahn, though bandits and criminals may find sanctuary there for a time. It is a dangerous area to travel, not just because of the unstable nature of the environment - the black, rocky soil is notorious for suddenly and inexplicably collapsing into bottomless ravines - but also because of the strange creatures which dwell there. While mammoths, sabre-toothed lions, carnivorous mammals who carry their living young in their belly, and even various species of thunderlizards can be found in the plains and forests of Jen’Hahn, the creatures of the south seem to defy any natural classification. Traditional Ahahns claim it is the land of demons; Jennite alchemists acknowledge that the soil samples they have studied conclude there is something there that is beyond magic, though they cannot tell what.