|Motto:||He who comes to us with a sword shall die by the sword.|
|Languages:||Orjani Common, Cheremoshi Elven, Mingit|
|Ethnic Groups:||Orjani, Elves, Dwarves (Seg, Boru), Gnomes, Mingits, Humans (Ladogan and Ormjurin)|
|Government:||City-states and independent holds.|
The breadbasket of the north, Orjana is a cool to temperate land of hearty farms, mystic forests, warrior lodges and witchy powers. It’s a multi-ethnic region divided among humans, Elves, Dwarves and Mingits. Orjani culture is a difficult blend of homegrown traditions and centuries of absorbed foreign imperialists.
Ethnic groups originally came from beyond the wolflands to the north, among the marshes, forests and meadows. Originally, the northern humans referred to the area as Ladoga and themselves as Ladogans, after the main river that flows through the northern section of the continent.
The Ormjurin were a militant people with a strong warrior culture who made multiple forays down the local rivers into Ladoga to raid or extract tribute. Several Ormjurin chieftains stayed. More and more Ormjurin moved south over time until the distinction between their lands blurred.
Despite having a stronger martial discipline, the Ormjurin didn’t have a strong sense of culture and dissolved in the locals rather than vice-versa. As the ethnic groups gradually merged, the greater region became known as Orjana, after the conquerors. The humans became known as the Orjani by their neighbors.
The Orjani people have also had to deal with incursions from the invaders beyond their borders. Though they were protected from the worst of Zul Kiran war bands by the difficult badlands and Borzoi forests between them, others have sailed around the sides of the continent about two hundred years ago, one such invasion almost succeeded in taking most of Orjana. A late alliance of the Orjani, elven and dwarven clans eventually forced back the invaders.
However, their leaders paid a high price for victory by committing several mundane and magical war crimes with lasting repercussions. The winter grove in Mytos K’unn ruptured, allowing the Spirit of Winter to run amok, almost exterminating the elven and gnome clans. Several Orjani detachments had also snuck around enemy lines and slaughtered many women and children in their settlements. Fueled by blood, the Spirit of Winter rampaged across the land before being overcome and dumped into the ocean. The Zamenhof, a cold whirlpool soon emerged, beginning to draw cold currents from the northern oceans and chilling the coast around it.
Some of the choices made during the conflict severely angered the Mytossi witches, who have sealed off the deep woods and turned hostile to all interlopers, stripping the human lords of an important source of political counsel.
Trade also grew in this period and though the mostly land-locked Orjani have no major port access, they provide an important interior trade route and are a major source of basic produce and natural resources for the northern continent.
Orjana isn’t a single country, and its multiple tribes, clans, and ethnic groups all have their own customs and traditions. Nonetheless, most of the children of the Ormjurin, Cheremosh and Ladoga pledge allegiance to the Krajiv Consensus, the treaty of alliance that superceded the hasty Fen-Lander Compact, which barely stopped the foreign invaders. The treaty creates a 'Bond of Brotherhood' between the human, dwarven and elven lords, requiring their regular attendance in the realm's most powerful city.
Cities as large as Krajiv are a recent development in Orjani history. Most humans and dwarves are used to living in log holds and farmsteads, banded together as fortified villages. Some, like the Ladogans, spent their history in the shadow of one or another invader. Others, like the Ormjurin, often were the invaders until cultural assimilation erased hard boundaries between the two.
All of this contributed to the rise of militant, self-reliant warrior-cliques protecting their chosen brothers, families or holdfasts. During the worst of the invader troubles, by Orjani tradition, a father would approach his newborn son with a drawn sword or axe, cast it to the ground and say “I cannot leave you any land. All that you shall have, shall you earn with this blade.”
Elves and gnomes also band together but prefer to live within the Cheremosh forest, using the natural terrain instead of walls to deter intruders. They practice agriculture in open meadows and hunt game in the woods.
The best fighters in the land assemble in warrior-lodges, sometimes called Druzhinas or Brotherhoods. A Druzhina may contain anywhere from a dozen fighters to over a hundred, in which case it’s called a Host. The Skorzenitsa Host is one notable example. The lodges are run as barracks and social clubs simultaneously, lacking the rigidity of most armies. Individual heroism is valued highly and Druzhina members are encouraged to take quests, whether practical ones that involve conquering or protecting a piece of land or epic ones, which involve slaying monsters or retrieving special treasure. Some lodges maintain rivalries and relish fighting each other.
Hero Worship and Ley Empowerment
Besides religion, there is a strong tradition of hero worship in Orjana. Famous conquerors, people of epic achievements and other paragons of society (sometimes, questionable paragons), are held in high regard. In the past, to be a hero through one’s achievements was to invite the auspicious attention of the Spirits of the Land, who draw power from people’s collective beliefs. The heroes would then be quite literally empowered through their soul’s improved resonance with the surroundings, gaining feats of strength, speed and sometimes even magic.In recent years, this phenomenon has declined severely, believed to be due to the witches removing their matronage and sealing off the Mytossi ley line nexus, deep inside the primordial Cheremosh.
Hero worship requires good bards, which is why the storytelling and musical professions are in constant demand. Sometimes due to the lack of bards, many warriors will train themselves to sing, play an instrument or tell tales.
Most Orjani have several simultaneous belief systems. On one level, they revere the totemic Spirits of the Land, who have real power over souls and the elements. These spirits are also major power figures for the elves and gnomes of the land.
Ladogans believe in the duality of Avir, the father sky-god and Mara, the mother-goddess of hidden places and secrets. In a way, a great deal of their religious philosophy can be described as the struggle between the masculine and the feminine aspects of existence. Currently, the followers of Avir have the upper hand.
Ormjurin have an Avir-like figure but place more emphasis on his children, a pantheon of gods whose mission is to hold back the relentlessly coming Endless Winter at the behest of a betrayer figure and his army of outer monsters of the cold. The betrayer is sometimes portrayed as a soot-colored dog, who will swallow the sun if allowed to get close to it. These gods always need stout warriors to join the fight – hence why being a mighty hero is so important.
People and Places
Krajiv is the closest Orjana has to a capital and center of civilization. It’s a broad, sturdy city with a reinforced wall that has survived many onslaughts. Originally, Krajiv was simply the biggest warrior-lodge in the land but as invaders from the south tried to lay claim, the Orjani people had rallied around it. Today, they say the city has over a thousand roofs, and growing.
The city and it surrounding farmland is ruled by a Knjaz, a title similar to Grand Duke in Arangoth. Because of the prestige of working for the Knjaz, Krajiv has the best Druzhina or warrior-band in the land, attracting the finest fighters to join. Despite being urbanites, many residents of Krajiv have a small home or patch of land in the countryside and circulate between their city and country dwellings regularly. Marketplaces are held in the city.
Besides its Druzhina, Krajiv has a large peasant militia ready to be mobilized in its defense.
The second-largest warrior host, named after Bogdan Skorzenko, Krajiv’s biggest pain in the backside. Skorzenko was a war hero to the Orjani in the fight against the foreign invaders but after the war ended, he decided to stay a raider and rebel instead of settling down and pledging his sword to the Krajiv consensus. He was declared an outlaw but no knjaz or barin in Orjana had the manpower to catch him and Skorzenko lived to a ripe old age before he fell in battle.
His warrior host, known as the Skorzenitsa, is the preeminent lodge for restless wanderers and brigands who like hiring out as mercenaries, living freely off the land or taking other people’s goods as tribute.
Two great dwarven clans, the Seg and the Boru live in the north. The dwarves are Orjani in many ways – they have guild-clans similar to warrior lodges and live in similar habitations to humans: sturdy log cabins and a few small fortresses carved into cliffs. But they also have some Najjira customs in their religion and family life, which they picked up through trade. Both the dwarves and the Mingits who live among them form the merchant class of Orjana.
The Seg are the only seafarers in mostly-landlocked Orjana. They are based at Orjana’s single port of Vodgorod or “Watertown” and the surrounding coastline. They have a small flotilla of slow trading sloops, which can negotiate coastal waters and impact with ice but not the open ocean.
The Boru live mostly inland, within neighborhoods in human cities or in private holds with their own farmsteads. They buy goods from the Seg and the Xiunlans and sell them throughout Orjana.
The Mingits serve as agents and brokers, helping find fellow Mingit trading partners abroad. They mostly live in ghettos throughout human cities and in an enclave in Vodgorod.
Cheremosh: The Fey
The Cheremosh is the name of a forest that covers a good part of Orjana. Much like the Soranion, the woods are run through with powerful ley line grids, giving the forest an arcane presence and enabling the habitation of faeries. Certain elven and gnomish clans make their homes here as well. They prefer to keep to themselves and only allied with the humans when the foreign incursion seemed hopeless.
Deep in the Cheremosh are the four sacred groves of Mytos K’unn. Each grove is suspended in spacetime during a different season: eternal spring, eternal summer, eternal fall and eternal winter. The forests are watched over by the Mytossi witches, several clans of elves and gnomes and a handful of “spirits of the land” – massive totemic animals and walking trees that carry the ley nerve-endings of the forest and the soul-templates of its animals. How the witches are trained or whether they’re mortal is unknown. By ancient tradition, the big majority has been female.
During the final foreign incursion, an elven lord performed a terrible ritual, summoning the fey spirit of winter into himself and his warriors. Though they won their battle, they soon died and the spirit, freed from its constraints and fed on violence, became a living blight that was barely overcome and thrown into the ocean. For this and for all the bloodshed, the angered Mytossi witches sealed their realm and started killing everyone who comes close to any of the sacred groves.
Names are often given as First Name of Father's Name, of Place. Example: "Ivan, of Vsevolod, of Krajiv."
Male: Ivan, Sviatoslav, Rurik, Sviatogor, Hildar, Vladimir, Vsevolod, Noreg, Vostok, Erikur, Ilya, Ranulf, Trofim, Pyotr, Fedor, Alyosha
Female: Mara, Zina, Siri, Tatiana, Ekaterina, Ingrid, Tyra, Lana, Oksana, Vasilisa, Siv, Verdandi, Mina, Ludmila, Zoya, Masha, Alina