Vostovic (Human)

Hailing from the cool climes of the Southern Sub-Continent and the Antarctic regions, the Vostovic are from the dominant nation in that region, the Kurov Empire. Light skinned, pale eyed, and with light to dark brown hair, they've begun exploring north of their homelands at the command of their Empress, and have landed on the Annas Archipelago and southern shores of the Southern Continent. Their reception has been mixed, but their seemingly limitless wealth has opened the doors of trade and diplomacy.   Vostovic society is divided into extended families and stratified into castes, within which there is very little possibility of upwards mobility. At the bottom of the system are the serfs, bonded peasantry subject to a system akin to slavery. Above them are the Zavoviya, free merchants and tradespeople who form the very small "midde class" of the Kurov Empire. Above them are the ranked nobles, a complex collection of finely defined hierarchies of noble houses (generally containing a main family and several cadet branches) who dominate the political, high culture, and economic scenes in the empire. Finally, above them, is the Imperial House and its cadet branches. The Imperial House enjoys absolute power in the empire, and its cadet branches only slightly less. The only known methods of upwards mobility in Vostovic culture is by becoming a tradesperson or merchant (difficult at best), marriage into a higher class (frowned upon heavily), through military service (the most common), or via Imperial Decree (rare and unheard of). The exceptions to this are the clergy, who are outside the system, and arcane magic users, who are adopted into noble families (a legacy of their history as a magocracy).   The names of the Vostovic are straight forward, with a given name and family name. Men refer to each other by surnames in public and given names in private, while women use first names at all times. On marriage, a woman hyphenates her last name with her partners, but children only take their father's name. The exception to this is in the nobility, where names are "kept alive" by passing on hyphenated names to children when no male heirs are available. The expectation being that the family using the hyphenated name will eventually split off into two branches. This has happened, but so has double and even triple hyphenation.   To ask anyone about the Vostovic will result in different answers depending on who they met and what caste they came from. Most will agree that they are a people of stern disposition, and to the peoples of the Southern Continent, particularly the staid Iburi, they appear very emotional. The Vostovic are known to be determined and intractable once set on a course of action, and for their appreciation of artistic beauty. Vostovic artists are famed as painters and for their fine metalwork which verges into the delicate; this has created a steady trad ein artistic goods from the exteme south north and vice versa. Tradition and adherence to tradition are important aspects of Vostovic culture, and change comes slowly unless forced and enforced by the imperial family.   At home, the Vostovic wear multiple layers of clothing against the cold, usually made of wool and linen, and decorated with careful embroidery and brocade. Reinforced leather armours dominate the landscape in their homelands, being used by common soldiers and adventurers, as well as nobles when travelling. Wealthy Zavoviya and lower nobility buy and use suits of chainmail as a matter of prestige and protection, and reinforced suits of chainmail are common among the aristocracy. The imperial family holds the sole rights to double-mail and its reinforced forms. These armours serve them well in the cool climes of the south, but have proven problematic in the north. This has led to a minor schism between Vostovic of the Zavoziya and noble classes who are breaking tradition and using climate appropriate armour and those who insist on using their traditional armours. Vostovic use weapons by caste, the serfs use flails, axes, morning stars, and short bows; Zavoziya and nobles use sabres, polearms, and crossbows; the imperial family use the kilij, a weapon they were gifted with in the distant past, and crossbows. Any Vostovic of the Zavoziya caste or higher may carry a kindjal, a sturdy curved dagger.   As a people the Vostovic are comfortable with divine magic, but deeply suspicious of arcane magic, to the point of being terrified by unsanctioned magic users. This is tied to their deeper past as a magocracy, and to the structures they have created to control and protect themselves from arcane magic users who are not part of the aristocracy in service to the imperial family. This makes their interactions with peoples with more liberal attitudes towards magic difficult, especially if it's revealed there's a magic user among their number. Word that arcane magic users are treated better in the north has caused the creation of a clandestine movement to smuggle magic users out before they are discovered and pressed into service in the noble families under the guise of adoption.   The Followers of the Elemental Court dominate the religious landscape of the Vostovic, and have wages active conflicts against the Cult of the Four Dragons and the Way of the Numena when they appear, making those faiths underground ones in their homelands. Religion is a central aspect to the life of the Vostovic people, and is highly structured and orthodox in its nature. The clergy are exempt from the caste system, and weild immense power among the Vostovic, and have the ability to influence even the imperial family.

Naming Traditions

Feminine names

Anya, Vysatana, Zirica, Talia

Masculine names

Oleg, Nikoli, Danic, Ivoric, Kacic

Family names

Rostovic, Zarovic, Dladnovica, Sorov, Dorokic

Culture

Major language groups and dialects

All Vostovic speak the same language, but the nobility has their own accent, and the imperial family has its own dialect that hails from another time and people completely, enough that it can be considered a language in of itself.

Culture and cultural heritage

The food of the Vostovic focuses on enhancing natural flavours with savoury herbs and altering textures to create a pleasant mouth feel to match the flavour. Mutton, fish, and chicken are its most common meats, with pork and beef generally be too expensive for most. They work a lot with wheats, oats, rye, root vegetables, and leafy vegetables. The introduction of olive oil and palm oil to the cuisine has created the fastest cultural shift that any living Vostovic has experienced, and there is an unquenchable desire for these and other food commodities from the north.

Common Dress code

Men wear trousers, calf high boots, tunics, and vests as a base; often with fur trim when possible. Women wear full lenth dresses, heavy stockings, low boots, a tunic, and apron. Men's hats have many shapes, but hoods and soft rolled fabric hats are common amongst all, differentiated by decoration. Women wear their hair in braids that can be covered by rolled fabric hats. For those who have come north into warmer climes, there's a minor crisis of clothing occuring as they balance tradition against the noon day sun.

Art & Architecture

The architecture of the Vostovic becomes more detailed, decorated, and arguably gaudy as one progresses from the serfs to the imperial family. Likewise, construction materials are detemrined by caste, with serfs being limited ot mud, lumber, and thatch; the Zavoziya being permitted brick and mortar; and things like stone and more exotic building materials being restricted to the nobility and imperial family. Towers, onion domes, and the like are common. Vostovic cities and settlements are dirty by northern standards, and have a "particular" aroma because they use open sewer systems and cesspits extensively. The Imperial family bucks this trend with their extensive use of closed systems and magic.

Coming of Age Rites

Each coming of age ceremony (at six, fifteen, and twenty respectively) is conducted by the clergy of the Followers of the Elemental Court (and then again by the other faiths in secret as needed), and involves benedictions and prayers that the recipient grow to be the best in the position assigned them by fate, followed by an annointing with holy oils. These are followed by celebrations.

Funerary and Memorial customs

The Vostovic funeral is a solemn affair, where the deceased are interred ina grave befitting their station in life, preferably in the land they were tied to. Nobles and imperial family are always interred in crypts in the Kurov Empire itself, unless their bodies are lost. The reasons for this have been forgotten to time.

Common Taboos

The Vostovic are very religious, and it's considered taboo to not honour the Elemental Court prior to a meal or endeavour, bringing bad luck for the remainder of the day and endeavour respectively.

Ideals

Beauty Ideals

Vostovic have deep and well developed ideas around beauty that are linked to their castes and positions. All prefer decorated and colourful clothing, and make heavy use of brocade and embroidery. Gold decorations are restricted to the nobility, silver to the Zavziya, and the imperial family uses adamant and electrum. Serfs may use copper and bronze. Among men, beard styles and mustache styles are restricted by class, while braids for hair likewise restricted among women. Men with slim builds are considered the ideal of the male form, while curvy women are considered the ideal female form.

Gender Ideals

The Vostovic have a binary view of sex and gender, and a dim view of people who do not "act right". They are, however, egalitarian and have high levels of equality. Men and women in Vostovic society are able to pursue their strengths, within the constraints of their castes, without hindrance. More than most factors, this perception has been a sticking point when interacting with Iburi, Dakan, and Orc populations.

Courtship Ideals

These vary by class. Serfs are swift and informal, receiving the blessing of their village preist and immediately shacking up. Zavoziya and the lesser nobility seek marriages of advancement and enrichment, with the courtship being a formality. Among the upper nobility and imperial family, courtship is serious business, with long, drawn out, dramatic courtships being the norm.

Relationship Ideals

Among serfs, it's love; everywhere else, it's a combination of a minimum level of vague tolerance and the sense of duty that it's happening for the family. Infidelity is deeply frowned on, particularly for women, but among the nobility, there's a nod-wink kind of acceptance that both may have "friends" and "companions" that are more, provided no children are produced.


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