Pazitor Dress (\ 'pə·zi·tȯr \)
I guard the waters, for they carry our people. I guard our people, for they carry my life. May the waters carry us home. — Oath of the PăzitorsThe dress of păzitors has always fascinated outsiders. Its bold blues and teals with embroidered natural imagery and beadwork capture the imagination of travelers, storytellers, and children. Others decry it as outlandish and flamboyant. Only the Oameni realize the deeper meaning of the garments, how they tell the origins of the community, back to the Volshkan homelands.
Păzitor dress begins with a tabard of blue or teal. Knee length and open at the sides, they are made from a medium weight cloth and are rumoured to magically protect the wearer from harm. A double-wound silk belt cinches the tunic closed. An edge stitching works as a family insignia. Common symbols relate to waterfalls, deltas, trees, flowers, and seeds. More perceptive outsiders have noticed these icons and used them to groups the Oameni—recommending friends to seek the delta tribe or avoid the lily tribe—not realizing the subtle differences that separate one family from another. The Oameni learn how the number of curls on a fall reveals its name, or the count of petals on the lily gives the distance from the sea to the family’s ancestral home. Particular plants help locate family's origins. Juniper shoots indicate a highland family from the Titan’s Claw, while Vestren cattails speak of a history near the estuaries of the Vestren sea.
The silk belts serve more than decorative purposes as well. The belt can be removed to help tie items down, bundle them up, or practice knots. On particularly hot days, they’re unwound and worn around the head as protection from the sun. At Oameni gatherings, a game is made of finding unexpected uses for the belts.
Beneath the tunic tight fitted cloth garments are worn. These are treated with special oils to keep the skin dry from rain and water spray. Made of a lighter cloth, they are flexible so as not to restrict movement, especially swimming.
Look for the ones with the blue tunics. They’re the most civilized and easy to deal with. Call themselves river wardens. — Mort Knucklebones, Ujen Dockmaster
The daily păzitor tabard is kept plain and functional, excepting the family signet on the breast. Each păzitor also owns a formal tabard for celebrations and important events. These pieces are highly decorated with embroidery and beading, depicting the history of the community, the family, and the individual. They tell the history of the community, their origins and travels; the spirits who favour them; the deeds and accomplishments of family and individual. Plants and geographical symbols are again used to represent places. Animals usually represent spirits or deities. A swift swallow might reveal Thestia’s favour, while the beaver shows dedication to Myander. The tabard is a living record, often restitched at significant points in the păzitor’s life, becoming a personal record, thus each one is unique to the owner and an item of great pride and significance. They become an historical record, often transformed and preserved to teach future generations about their ancestor’s deeds.
Due to the mobile nature of the Oameni, large scale crop farming is difficult. They have adapted their needs to what the riverbanks provide, and when that does not work, they have adapted the riverbanks. With regards to clothing, their cultivation of the fox fur nettle has been exceptional.
The fox fur nettle looks similar to a stinging nettle, but the hairs on the underside of the leaves have a slight reddish tone. Growing to around two meters, the fox fur nettle has done extremely well in a variety of environments and, with the help of the Oameni, can now be found throughout most of Anvimar. Each community harvests to their needs, but with care for the health of the plants and the needs of their fellow Oameni. In the growing season, they tend as they travel, checking the health of the plants not just where they expect to harvest, but wherever any Oameni may follow.
When harvested, the nettles are stripped of their leaves—which can be used in cooking, brewing, and tea—then placed in retting boxes. These boxes are attached to the Oameni boats and keep the stalks submerged. After a few days the stalks are retrieved and split into fibers. Coarsely they can be wound into twine or rope, or they can be spun into finer yarn. The yarn from fox fur nettle does not shrink and is both soft and durable. It is the primary component of the tabards and undergarments of the păzitor's dress.
Oameni care for a number of animals, depending on the size of their community, including goats, however the goats they manage are for dairy production, not fibre. Attempts at cultivating fibre producing goats have generally gone poorly as they tend to suffer pneumatic conditions related to the damp river life. Thus the Oameni are dependent on trade for woolen goods.
Tradition by Circumstance
Ask a păzitor about the colour of their tunics they’ll say it represents the water they protect. Some even believe this to be true, although, as far as the Oameni roam, it’s only the deeper lakes of Anvimar that approach these hues.
It is generally accepted that the blue to teal traditional uniform was a concession to outside influence. Originally there was no such standardization, but the Oameni noticed outsiders would approach them based solely on the colours of their tunics, expecting inherent significance. While they refused to remember the păzitor title, they would search for the “blue tunics” and expect authority to make a deal. Word spread through the communities about this phenomenon and the time it would save to play into this expectation rather than avoid it.
While the undergarments are purposefully light and prioritize freedom of movement over protection, the heavier tabards hide a tarde secret of the Oameni. Woven throughout is a metal thread, mostly hidden between layers of cloth and further disguised by the embroidery. The garment is then given a ritual blessing before being presented to the Păzitor, usually on their 16th birthday. Although no more encumbering than leather armour, it protects like a chain shirt.