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Known as the "Wolves of the Sea," the Korthai are nomadic raiders and merchants that live off the ships that they sail. Their reputation as sailors is unsurpassed and most sailors have a horror story to tell of the Korthai. Many rumors float about that the Korthai are in league with demons and that they consume the flesh of their enemies.
Racially, the Korthai are descended from same stock as Assi, a mixture of the seafaring Tavaoi with the Uresti tribes. The tribes that became the Assi decided to move further inland up the Nie Valley, while the Korthai returned to their maritime roots. They are multi-racial now, a state of affairs that due to intermarraige between captured people and original Korthai as by fictive kinship and the prevalent custom of the adoption of captives.
The seafaring Tavaoi people arrived on the southern coast of Veth some time around 1500 BT, not long after the Uresti tribes migrated into lower Nie Valley from Aslar. The Tavaoi established several communities between the Nie and Darian rivers, and intermarried with the Uresti. This ultimately led to the downfall of the Rondissian empire. The Korthai were a particular enemy of the Tollorian navy during their era of naval dominance.
More recently, the Aslarians hired the Korthai to harass Ellurian shipping during the Southland War. When the Aslarians reneged on the deal, the Korthai turned on the Aslarians instead. Korthai Lord Harlst-Mhern Lathvek had a seat on Drache's Regency Council, and made use of his Korthai allies to supplement Arangoth's fledgling navy and to bring grain to the city during the famine that prompted the Council's rise to power.
Very recent history shows that there has been an outbreak of sickness among the Korthai, a rather broad sweeping illness that was thought to be brought on by a particular type of coral that was brought up by one of the vessels. The sickness swept through the Korthai people and was met with no resistance through normal means of treating an illness. Though the Korthai are not normally social people among each other after enough vessels were stricken and ultimately left unmanned when all but the adopted members of the crew on them died away, as a people there was a cease called on all social interaction among them. This illness did not seem to effect any of those people that were fostered into the Korthai culture and only those that were Korthai by blood including children.
The illness moved in stages and effected first the respiratory system causing violent coughing from which black sputum was expelled and eventually left the sufferer weak to the point of exhaustion. The secondary symptom of the illness effected the circulatory system, namely causing blood vessels to explode in the eyes making them weep blood and causing violent seizures that grew more and more severe to the point of death. This illness, moving rapidly through the people, had no obvious cure and had begun to devour the number of Korthai that remained. Quite suddenly however, without obvious cause, the illness stopped its ravage and those that were recently sickened grew stable and then recovered.
The economy of the Korthai as a whole is based off of the interaction with other races and civilizations. The Korthai are astounding traders and terriying raiders, but find a sort of balance that borders on religion between the two. If there is too much raiding and not enough trading in a year, or vice versa, many Korthai believe it will anger the sea itself and lead to catastrophic storms or worse. This balance is also prevalent when regarding gender roles, as male captains exclusively command raiding parties and female captains exclusively command mercantile vessels.
The Korthai are thought to be in league with demons due to their aptitude in naval warfare. The tell-tale red sails of the Korthai, when seen in the warmer seasons, are enough cause for any merchant to attempt to flee. Few turn and face the fearsome Korthai man to man, though all accusations and rumours of the Korthai being cannibals or demon worshippers have been thoroughly debunked. The simple truth is that piracy is a way of life for the Korthai, and as such it is honed to a science.
Oftentimes, there will be a few ships that leave to go on a hunt at once, but no Korthai vessels will raid together. The way of the Korthai is that of efficiency, and even in piracy they live by the rule of dividing and conquering. By each raiding their own vessels, the Korthai raiding parties bring back exponentially more loot, and make their communities exponentially more wealthy.
These raiding parties will store anything they can't use or adapt to their communities, waiting until the cold months approach and the trading parties begin to take precedence over the raiding parties. These goods are then used as a sort of kick-start to the trading months, eventually being turned over to more and more valuable possessions. As men are prided on being ferocious and calculating warriors, women are prided on being cunning merchants, and each role is seen equally.
The trade happens largely in foreign ports, and it is often a yearly visit that those foreign ports can mark on a calendar. The routes for the entire cold season are planned during the warm season, and the same is true for the raiders during the cold season. Oftentimes, the most prosperous ports are visited last, after there have been months of trade to build up large fortunes. These large fortunes are then spent on valuables and rarities, such as impressive new technologies. Using these valuables, the raiding vessels retrofit themselves, and the cycle continues.
Though each community has its own local government, there is a Lantya (or council) of 24 men and women that meets during the annual Kesset Korthai. This council has seats that, unlike local governments, are passed down by blood. Legend says that the Sea Serpent itself had borne the first 24 Korthai, and these 24 created the first Lantya. As the years have passed, cultures and races have intermixed wildly, but these lineages have largely stayed intact.
The Lantya is responsible for the largest decisions of the race as a whole, such as feuds between entire communities being settled or succession disputes being resolved. The Lantya is commonly not filled by the 24 most powerful Korthai, either; rather, most of the Korthai on the Lantya are no more influential than any other captain the other 51 weeks of the year. Only during the Kesset Korthai do they have a higher ranking than other captains. It's worth noting that each member of the Lantya is required to be the captain of their own vessel, or the title will be passed down to the next in the bloodline, as voted on by the council.
The culture of the Korthai is as diverse as the races that make it up. There are only a few consistencies, but these core consistencies are noted below. Do not take these as the rule, however. They are only generalizations. Considering the multitude of customs the adopted Korthai bring to the table, there is no possible way to describe each individual community sufficiently.
The only unifying philosophy prevalent amongst the Korthai: Being Korthai transcends mortality. A spirit is always Korthai, no matter what shell it is born into. Death merely means being reborn Korthai anew. To make others Korthai (again) is a higher good.
According to the Korthai, children and prisoners of war are all viewed as "adults" in training. Prisoners of war are assigned a "parent" in the same way as the natural parent of a child in adhering to a concept of fictive kinship. Adoptions are common, even between Korthai families. Some adoptions replace the old family name with the new or merely keep the old family name. This is done in cases where parents have died. First generation Korthai naming is that of the original family and adoptive family, so first generation Korthai have two names - original family and adoptive family in that order. Second Generation children use the adoptive family name as the family name. Adopted children of adopted Korthai take the Korthai name as well. Korthai females adopt the mother's last name, while males use the father's last name.
In year 469, slavers unwittingly raided a Korthai village, and Korthai vessels were sent after them to retrieve the women who were taken. After taking back the women, Korthai dropped off people at various ports of call to spread the word that the Wolves of the Sea declared war on slavers. Paradoxically, the Korthai sometimes forcibly "adopt" captives into their families. Slaves that have been raided from slaving vessels are seen in much the same way as prisoners of war. They are taken into the Korthai fold as free men and women, but are required to prove their station and advance by merit as any other citizen. This is often why slavers pointedly avoid Korthai-infested waters, as the slavers not only lose all of their "merchandise" but also have the added danger of being paid a visit by the same slaves they had kept imprisoned.
The cultural mentality of the Korthai can be summed up as one of pragmatism. If an action can cause them to lose more than they gain, the Korthai will tend to find an alternative. This also applies into their soaking up foreign concepts, technologies, and their utilization of the talents of the various races in their fold to their fullest potential. They utilize magic and technology equally. Their mentality applies to gender as well. Women and men tend to dress utilitarian. Modest styles, but can be brightly colored. Korthai have a tendency towards bluntness and crudeness and also tend towards more coarse entertainments. "May the wind break upon your prow, and not from your behind," is a Korthai parting call that tends to irritate and horrify more genteel folk.
The Korthai have two particular sorts of communities. The first of these are groups of ships called khonn-ya, and are treated much like villages. Groups of elders, along with the captains of the raiding ships, all male, make decisions for the armadas along with the head merchants, all female. The seasonal activities of the khonn-ya are raiding and warfare in the summer and spring, and trading and other commercial enterprises in the winter and autumn.
The second type of community is a standard land-based port. There are several "Home Ports", often near trade centers, but also isolated and ethnically distinct as Korthai. Often they are composed of land-bound elders and children as well as some wounded in battle. Some ships also base themselves around certain home ports on certain Korthai trade routes. At least a pair of Korthai ships is in the region, if not in the port, to scare off other traders, aggressors. Except for a number of good natured drunken brawls, these towns tend to be well run and very quiet politically. Criminals tend to end up out to sea in 'vigilante' actions. In reality, the Korthai towns are run by Korthai law, but keep up the appearances of well ordered towns following the native laws. Korthai diplomatic policy, when they have such relations, tend to be a representative based at the home port.
The best known Korthai home port to Arangothians is Mhernettla, located on the Southern coast to the east of Drache. The town is on the lands of Halrlst Mhern-Lathvek, an Arangothian noble adopted into the Korthai. The rapid re-growth of the Elgar Forest during the Interregnum period makes the peninsula Mhernettla is located upon virtually cut off from the rest of Arangoth by land.
Festivals and Holidays
The only holiday every Korthai is expected to follow is the Kesset Korthai, or Celebration of the Korthai. This holiday lasts an entire week, and begins on the first day of Autumn. The Kesset Korthai is the ceremonial gathering of each able-bodied Korthai, where the entire race gathers at an undisclosed location in the sea and revel. This revelling and being merry serves a second purpose, as it is the ceremonial beginning of the trading season and the end of the raiding season.
The only time in recorded Korthai history the Kesset Korthai has not been held was when the Korthai Plague ravaged the population, as most agreed the meeting would've spelled the literal end of the race as a whole. The Lantya also was not held that year, which created a sense of confusion for the entire civilization. Ever since the plague ended, however, the Kesset Korthai is again a core portion of the Korthai identity.
It's worth noting that only full-blooded Korthai are allowed attendance. This does not mean necessarily that the attendants must all have Korthai blood; they must, however, all be full Korthai. No adopted Korthai in training are permitted to join their mentors. This creates a sense of a rite of passage for a Korthai's first attendance, and is not an event to be taken lightly.
Korthai marriages are typically marked by a pair of days of celebration, the first being more for the community and the second for the immediate families. Regardless of if the couple is on land or the sea, a feast is held by the community at large the day before the actual wedding. These feasts typically involve competitions as well, though the competitions are various and there is no traditional feat that is tested. These marriages do not necessarily mean that the couple is always together, either; some pairs are not crew members of the vessels, and others see each other only a few times a year.
The members of the Lantya themselves are in a wholly different situation. As this is the only position passed down by blood in the loose Korthai government as a whole, there are more strict guidelines as to marriage and divorce. These marriages are typically arranged so as to keep the bloodlines alive and well within the council, and due to the nature of these arranged marriages (often unhappy) it is not unheard of to acquire a multitude of Sea Spouses. These spouses are for all intents and purposes the concubines of more feudal governments, but there is no reason for any member of the Korthai except a sitting member of the Lantya to engage in such activities. Though divorce is looked down upon, by no means is it taboo. The larger populace, all but those 24 and the spouses connected to them, are free to break off relationships as they please.
Korthai technology is largely an amalgamation of all the technology acquired and spread due to their practice of adopting captured prisoners of war and 'looted' slaves. There are a few exceptions, which are listed below and are notably Korthai-exclusive. Of course, other cultures may seek to unravel these secrets or emulate the Korthai, but no other race presently boasts technology the likes of these.
Korthai are not above converted captured ships for their use, but prefer their own designs. The ships themselves draw from several cultural design aspects to combine the best. Size varies, but all are generally fast and well made, suitable for war and trade alike. Many are magically treated for such things as movement against winds, against catching fire, and to help prevent water from entering upon a breech.
The Black Shark class is the mainstay ship of the Korthai fleets and is the most common ship employed in a battle situation by the Korthai. The hulls of ships in this class tend to be around a hundred and fifty feet long, but only twenty five feet wide, making it a slimmer ship than many sailing. It tends to have three masts, with square rigging on the mainmast and the mizzenmast, but lanteen-rigged on the foremast. The sails are always colored red. The ropes tend to be silk. Armament on this class of ship tends to be around twenty cannon. The ship itself is generally made from what the Korthai call "Jala wood," apparently a foreign sort of lumber, and is always darkly varnished. Crew on these ships rounds out at between a hundred and fifty and two hundred Korthai altogether.
The Red Storm class is a smaller, faster vessel. It is in less common use than the Black Shark class due to its limited cargo capacity.
The largest, most powerful class of vessel that the Korthai field is known as the Angry Whale in their tongue. It is not in common use due to crew requirements and expense in running, and is mostly used to defend Korthai home ports.
The Julahn is a magical ritual moreso than a mundane technology, but it has made the Korthai vessels even more of a force to be reckoned with. It's also reinforced the idea of the Korthai being in league with demons. During the Kesset Korthai, all of the seers within the Korthai race come together and choose a handful of worthy captains and their respective crews that deserve great honor for their merits. Though there is no limit on the amount of items created at one celebration, the maximum ever recorded to have been created was four. No captain is allowed to have more than one of these items on their ship, and if they command an armada there is only one such item allowed on each of their ships.
These items are all blessed by the seers in a ritual that not even the Korthai as a whole understand. Only seers, venerated and experienced, are allowed to learn the Julahn and take part. Every single one of these items are the component of a ship, and they are each only warded against one event. Classic examples include a mast that cannot break or an anchor that will never slide. Though these magic items seem to be underwhelming, the true power is that no known sort of antimagic has any affect on these items.
The Korthai also see these items blessed by the Julahn as fair to use in any combat situation, whereas all magic may not be seen that way. A Korthai captain would rather see their ship go up in flames than pay a massive sum of money in order to pay for the whole of it to be fireproofed. Every Korthai vessel outfitted with one of these items is also seen as a target by other races and their navies, however. These coveted items make spectacular additions to any foreign vessel, and foreign cultures have no qualms with outfitting their ships with more than one such item.
The Korthai religion is just as complicated as their ethnic makeup due to their practice of adopting captives. Menxism is common among the Korthai, as is worship of the Ellurian sea god Seviro. Almost all Korthai believe in an entity they call the Sea Serpent, a spirit of the wild and unpredictable nature of the seas. While the Korthai believe that the Sea Serpent cannot be placated or bargained with, it is their understanding of its nature that allows them to navigate the oceans in rough weather that few non-Korthai could survive. "By the Sea Serpent" is a common Korthai exclamation of surprise or irritation, and the Korthai often swear oaths upon the Sea Serpent.
Main Article: Korthai Language
The common Korthai language. combines phrases and concepts from several languages, also attributed to the high degree of cultural intermixing.