Nara Pentare is a northern nation on the continent of Faedrun, enclosed by mountains on all sides, cut off from the outside world. The interior landscape of Nara Pentare is picturesque, and consequently is featured in beautiful artwork produced by its people.
As a result of their isolation by these mountains, Nara Pentare has evolved a culture of complete self-sufficiency and arrogance. They believe that the Naran people, and all they create, are the closest things to perfection that exist in the world, and they do not hesitate to behave as such toward outsiders. Outsiders, called rōwajin, have never been welcomed in Nara Pentare. The only recorded instance of a rōwajin being allowed in, he supposedly flew away on the back of a phoenix, to be destroyed and reborn. This legend has evolved the Naran view of outsiders into such that they view them as children, unready to learn or understand the world. The only outsiders they have any relationship with are the Syndar, who possess extremely limited trade agreements with them.
The Society and People
“Though the flame be put out, the wick remains.”
Nara Pentare society is extremely rigid, and adheres to a strict caste system. All know their place and act accordingly. Tradition also takes an extremely important role, and the Naran people are taught it from a very young age. Their tradition and pride as a people, however, pales in comparison to their reverence for honor. To a Naran, from the lowest farm worker to the Emperor himself, honor is everything. Anything remotely seen as challenging their honor is generally met with a duel. If the severity of the insult is small, it may be only to first blood, but in major cases, it is a duel to the death. Naran culture decrees that it is better to die than be dishonored. Consequently, Naran punishment for crimes would often be seen as severe in other regions. Death is not an uncommon sentence for even relatively minor crimes.
Narans are polite, but only to other Narans. They view outsiders as inferior, and while they tend to possess the tact to not be outright disrespectful, their arrogance can rarely be contained and outsider opinions are rarely given the attention a Naran opinion receives.
Narans are governed by an Emperor who is regarded throughout their society as a divine being. All Emperors, it is believed, are reincarnations of the first Emperor. To govern the land, Houses exist, ruling a province and upholding the Emperor’s will and authority.
According to the histories of the Naran people, Nara Pentare was not always one Empire. Originally, hundreds of years ago, there were five: the Empires of Fire, Water, Air, Wood, and Metal. All of them existed within the land now called Nara Pentare, and all shared a very similar culture. However, they were constantly at war, all the Empires attempting to gain more honor and destroy their rivals. As such, this era is simply known as “Strife”, translated as “Araton”. There was one other thing shared between all the Empires as well: an ancient prophecy, passed down for as long as anyone could remember. It spoke of a man who would end war, and create an Empire of perfection within the mountains. After so many years, the legend was largely ignored, so it was a great shock to the Empires when it began to be fulfilled. A man came forth from the Empire of Metal, a great general, undefeated in battle. He used his skill to conquer the Empires of Water and Fire, which led the others to resist further. He then conquered the rest, and the land was unified as the prophecy had stated. This man became the first Naran Emperor, and established the idea of his divinity, using the prophecy as a base. He did not, however, eliminate the other Empires or their culture, as he knew that to create a truly long-lasting and perfect Naran Empire, he would have to include them and their perspectives. When the Capital of Nara Pentare was built, it was with this in mind. It was constructed in a rough wheel, with divisions within for the Elements of Fire, Water, Air, and Wood. Where the spoke would be lived those of Metal. Over time, this attitude evolved into the divisions seen today, and into the caste system used throughout the Empire.
The Naran caste system is organized in two ways. The first is an affiliation system, using the Elements, Fire, Water, Air, Wood, and Metal. This system is the main base of a majority of Naran culture. The caste of a Naran is determined by birth, with their elemental affiliation determining their field and their skill, experience, and heritage determining their rank.
Those affiliated with the Element of Fire wear primarily red and black, and are very passionate, more so than other Narans. Many from this region are looked down upon by other Narans due to the wide range of emotions they openly display. They are considered by other Narans to be the least civilized of the elements, though still far above any outsiders. They are known for their ability to destroy and create, as is demonstrated by both their mastery of arcane magic and their unique and beautiful art style.
Those affiliated with the Element of Water wear mostly blue and white. They are sailors and fishermen, doctors, alchemists, priests and priestesses, and users of divine magic. They are the most empathetic of all Narans, as well as the most adaptable. They strive to exhibit extraordinary calm in any situation.
Those aligned with the Element of Air wear mostly yellows and light browns. Often farmers and shepherds, Narans from the Air Province are also well known for their skill with horses and bows, training to take full advantage of the open plains that make up much of their region. The most populous of the regions, this Province additionally supplies, trains and maintains a great deal of the rank-and-file soldiers of the Naran empire. They also count among their populace the greatest number of musicians. They tend to be free spirits, though they hold as tightly to their ideals of tradition and honor as any true Naran.
Those aligned with the Element of Wood generally wear green and dark brown. Due to the nature of the terrain in this province, generations of experts have trained their skills as the rogues of Naran society. Also found among their number are a great deal of hunters and laborers. Their art is evident in their homes, constructing buildings that seem to be made by the land itself and feats of engineering that would earn a second glance in Fawyth. Most are quiet and introverted, and have a great eye for complex and intricate details.
Those affiliated with the Element of Metal wear greys and blacks. They are merchants and bankers. Of the Narans, those of the Metal Province display the most arrogance, even towards other Narans. Their heritage produced the First Emperor, a fact of which they are all too happy to remind anyone who asks (and some who don’t). They are usually detail oriented, as well as focused on their own personal goals.
The second system is one of seniority in one’s chosen profession, determined by the skill and experience possessed by the individual. This is expressed through the wearing of earcuffs or earrings on the right ear. One earring or cuff signifies that one is a beginner or initiate in a profession. Two signifies a journeyman or intermediate level, and three signifies mastery. Only the Emperor, and members of his Imperial Court and Family may wear four earrings.
As seniority increases, the title due to each person changes in grade. For every specialty a person can have, there is a title due to those who are masters of it. For those in the beginner or journeyman ranks, the title is created from the first half of the master title, and the number one (ūro) or the number two (ūroto). The number one is used for beginners, the number two for journeymen.
Earrings are worn on the left ear as well, however, these have a different meaning. There are always three, each bearing the color associated with the individual’s elemental affiliation. The material used to display this color is often directly tied to an individual’s affluence or that of their family: colored string is often used for lower-class individuals, while those in the middle class can often afford ribbons. Wearing chains set with appropriately colored gems, however, is a sign of significant wealth or power. The earrings are meant to symbolize the three most precious entities in the individual’s life: themselves, their family, and their spouse.
The Classes and Titles
“If a warrior is not unattached to life and death, he will be of no use whatsoever…With such non-attachment one can accomplish any feat.”
These men are the pinnacle of Naran strength and virtue. For them, their honor is something more precious than life, even more so than the rest of the Naran population. They will never surrender, but will retreat if ordered to. They are skilled with multiple weapon types, primarily the sword. It is, however, balanced with knowledge in other areas.
“The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.”
The Rogue has a niche in Naran society. However, it is not stealth, as one might expect. Rogues are generally hunters, scouts, or specialized bodyguards. They use mostly bows and thrown weapons, but will often pair those with short swords or axes, should the need to defend oneself arise. They fight supporting the warriors, and will at times ensure their survival in wilderness situations.
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
Those who master the arcane have one drive behind them: knowledge. For some, their quest for knowledge can even overshadow their adherence to honor, though this often draws content and reprimand from more level-headed superiors. Among Arcanists, the more knowledge you possess, the more respected you become, and this is what motivates many of them. They are also very protective of their knowledge, and will not teach anything to anyone without ensuring that they are worthy of knowing it. Many use staffs as their physical weapons, and sometimes daggers or thrown weapons as well. They keep the secrets of Nara Pentare from outsiders, and are often highly logical and organized.
“If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.”
Users of Divine magic have a drive, just as Arcane users do. Theirs, however, is the welfare and health of the Naran people. They are healers, both with and without magic, and are very empathetic toward Narans in need. Many treat all life as sacred and will even extend their empathy and services to those outside of Naran culture, though Narans will be their priority in all but the most unique of circumstances. Tasked with keeping the spirituality of the Naran people, Naran clerics work closely with their mages to preserve their culture’s history and knowledge. They also keep the peace, and are mediators of disputes when necessary. They use mostly staffs as their weapons, though any blunted weapon is not an uncommon sight.
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
Monks are greatly respected within Nara Pentare, and are very powerful, as they are trained to use both Arcane and Divine magic. They are the highest-ranking Narans aside from those in the Imperial Court. The role that a Monk takes is to direct and advise, and the Naran people have benefited from that for hundreds of years. Both their outlook and dress are simplistic. They use both schools of magic but will supplement these abilities with other skills to prove useful in many situations, both in and out of combat.
“Just as treasures areuncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdomappears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the mazeof human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance ofvirtue.”
The religion of the Naran people is, in its ultimate form, a religion of thanksgiving. In their eyes, the Gods have given them the gift of being the superior people, and all that goes with it. To honor their Gods, Narans attempt to be the best that they can be at whatever they do, to give thanks for being superior in the doing. In the tree of spirituality that winds through Nara Pentare, there are core Gods, representing core values, creation, and concepts that the Naran people hold dear. For more specific, and so more personal veneration, there exist the Spirits, representing almost anything that can be named. Narans hold their religion in their hearts, but are not governed by it. They obey the directives of their Emperor, seen as the mouthpiece of the Gods, a God himself, and give great weight to the recommendations and predictions of their priests and clerics. However, it is ultimately the Naran people who make their own decisions about what their paths are in life.
Depending upon the Elemental affiliation of a person, they will tend to give thanks to a certain God or Gods in their offerings. These represent concepts and values that are common within people of that Element.
Kōjin: God of fire, smithing, war, and arcane magic.
Ryūjin: God of the sea, lakes, fishing, divine magic, and storms.
Marici: God of wind, gusts, insight, and prosperity.
Sarutahiko: God of earth, forests, and the trees.
Shōtoku: God of trade, coin, mining, and administration.
Just as Gods represent values close to the hearts of the Elements, so too do certain spirits, which sometimes physically embody the Element itself. Aside from these, however, are great multitudes of other spirits, which, depending on one’s profession, are venerated specifically.
Hitodama: Spirit which represents the souls of fallen warriors, and is common on ancient battlefields. It is said to appear as a ball of semi-translucent fire.
Yōsei: Spirit that is similar to a water fairy, is commonly seen on ships, and plays small tricks on people. It represents good luck, and appears as a dwarfish human.
Mujina: Spirit which represents hard work, and loyalty. It is commonly seen on roads and alongside fields. It appears as either a small monkey-like figure, or a badger.
Qilin: Spirit which represents protection, benevolence, kindness, and fertility. It is uncommon, and seen around holy sites, in ancient forests, and rarely, in the households of nobles. It appears as a scaled goat with the head of a dragon.
Dragon: Spirit which represents supremacy, grace, and judgment. It is almost never seen, save high in the mountains, and appears as a long, sinuous snake-like animal with wings and primarily metallic coloring.
Current State of Affairs
Nearly a century ago, in the year 186, divination rituals performed by a small order of monks returned with a faint aura far across the sea. Without the ability to expand their territory, the Naran people sought out this aura to attempt to establish a colony. After a lengthy voyage, they came across the source of the aura they had detected: a small island out at sea, surrounded by reefs and mountains. Of the four ships who departed, however, only one managed to navigate the reefs to the shore, a small inlet revealing the crescent shape of the island itself. It is here that the survivors began a small colony, sending their last ship home in hopes of receiving more aid. More ships arrived, quickly at first, but then the flow of supplies slowed to a trickle before they stopped coming at all. The final ships bore dire news: the nation of Nara Pentare had been defeated and overrun by the undead. Almost none survived. The colony was now alone in the world. They set about rebuilding their culture, and with nothing else to cling to, they drove themselves deeper into their already extensive traditions. Here they have stayed for decades, trapped in isolation, cut off from the outside world, and they seem to prefer to keep it that way…