In the Grasslands of Garuda the Karu have built an empire
he Karu are a culture of nature-focused architects that have transformed central Garuda into a shrine for The Divinity.
Along the edge of the forest sits a grassland and savanna that makes up central Garuda
. This area is called the Ilun Valley
and is the ancestral home of the Karu. The Karu currently make up the ethnic majority in Garuda as well as a significant presence of the The Divine Order of the Phoenix
. Their significance in the area is largely attributed to their early claim over the fertile central lands. The rise and prominence of the Order have alone spread their culture across the land. To the glee and chagrin of a few other groups.
As the Karu describe it, they were created first by Garuyda
. Many scholars have tried to ascertain the validity of it, but have been able to so far. The Karu weren't the only children to be created by the Phoenix, but the nature-minded group continually take lead when it comes to who cares first. The Karu have taken the slow and conscious effort to expand with nature, rather than against it. In valleys, they weave their roads around the terrain, and in the forest areas trees are rarely cleared. They view the nature around them as an extension of their god and hold its health in high regard. Even if that means taking the long route.
Only fools destroy that which also gives them life and nourishment
Being near the forest yet living in the plains has allowed the Karu to really appreciate and enjoy art. Over time this has morphed into not just enjoyment, but a way of life. The value the Karu place on their artists is above any in Tikor
. The ability to convey emotion and beauty through painting or craft is considered magic unto itself. Crafting is especially prized by the Karu and Garuda
as a whole. In the Ilun Valley
, wood craftsmen are akin to celebrities. Not only are their works prized, but the artist themselves are adulated in public. There are several festivals a year where artist are both celebrated and their art on display.
Symbols of Culture
While a wide variety of crafts are relished by the naturalist culture, two main things stand above the rest; masks and axes. Both of these items hold significance for the Karu in multiple ways. The masks that are carved hold a multitude of meanings and functions. They range from decorative to ceremonial to even mystical. Given the high status that carvers hold in Karu society, it's no surprise that hand axes would become a symbol of prestige. The most venerated craftsman among the Karu are called Soulcarvers. Their ability to catch the very soul of a subject is legendary, and their ordinate carver axes known as Arde can take your breath away.
"We are not separate from nature, we are natural in ourselves"
The deities of Garuda
and Karu have a bond like few others in the land. The Divinity
are almost a ruling class in the land, with the members being treated as royalty. While the gods as a whole are treated fairly, Garuda seems to be so full of them sometimes that it becomes the norm. However, the central deities of Karu life continue to hold a special affinity. Cadmus
is often looked up to by young boys for his cool but calm demeanor. Ravata
wisdom and fury make her an idol among women, many with aspirations of rule.
Order of Phoenix
Given the link between the land and the Divine, it was no surprise that the bulk of the Karu controlled lands heard the call of The Divinity
. Amongst themselves, Karu had often discussed the need for a unified sense of rule. Many had looked to their prominent deities for guidance and when Cadmus
and this group came to each village, they were greeted with fervor and rapt attention. Every single Karu member that was chosen by the deities to serve in the first government heeded the call. Little hesitation came from them, their kin of the towns they had come to represent.
I had never seen Lady Mime in the flesh until the day The Divinity came to Lormaunt. No one knew they were coming, and a few of the older ones, bless my heart they just fainted. That many of the divine in one area is intense, by Mime made it all worthwhile. She's just everything that's perfect in life. I wish I had been chosen. I'd have chosen her. I know it doesn't work that way...but dreams are nice too.
A Diviner reads the cards, signs and other signals for a person, place or thing's fortune. The divinators intent is to read the fortune of the client through the divination. This takes place in various forms including spirit possession. Also due to the flowers and other natural things used in divination, most Diviners end up being skilled healers and know a wide variety of herbs that can heal or ail. Every town and village has at least one Diviner, with large cities have multiple, if not dozens. The most powerful of diviners are called Mwandi
and said to have the incarnated souls of past rulers in them.
A Jalen is an oral historian and holder of Karu traditions. They often recite this knowledge through song and dance. They have, within them, memorized all the events from a town or areas history that is known. However, they often can only portray lengthy and complex events through song or dance as they use magic to show a recreation of an event. Their knowledge, however, usually only extends to the area in which they live.
Soulcarvers are magical wood craftsmen. As a step above a normal carver, Soulcarvers are said to capture the very essence and soul of a subject in their sculpts. Their pieces are often breathtaking and enchanting and are known for taking the breath away. Some people have claimed however that pieces made by these mystic artists are cursed. Or at the least can be cursed. Rumors even say that a Soulcarver is capable of actually putting the soul of the subject in their wooden figures.
Karu Axe by Swordsfall
Culture and cultural heritage
Karu culture is a mix of respect for nature, art and a fierce respect for the deities and spirits. To capture what is alive and honor the dead are elements that repeatedly come up in lore and history.
Art is more than just a cultural item to the Karu, it's an essential part of their identity. While the forest culture hasn't been unaffected by war or a want to conquer, they continue to look at craft and performance art with revery. Sculptures are often made to be freestanding, not requiring any base for the statue. Female imagery is laden in most of their art, from paintings to even the pommels of axes. In general, though most sculptures are designed to please even the eyes of the gods. This mindset has been credited as a reason for their dedication to handcrafts.
An artist is only as good as his tools, and for the Karu, this is no exception. Traditional wood carvings were often made with small hand axes that allowed for nimble cuts and wide chops. Over the years the handcraft of the tools themselves begins to reflect the standing of the carver. Over time this has led to these axes or arde as they're referred to, being worn in public. Some arde are jewel encrusted with precious metal along the handles. However, no matter how ornate, the arde must be functional at all times. The balance of function and beauty only makes the tool that much more impressive.
Art & Architecture
The Karu's ability to incorporate nature in their buildings is almost legendary. While most other cultures have to weight the risk of angering forest spirits and deities, the Karu invite them as friends. Since the time to they came to the lands of Garuda , they've had a respect for the land, and the land has responded in kind.
For the Karu, the biggest design ideal is "Work with the medium, never against.", and this applies to all manner of craft. When it comes to construction of homes and other structures, the Karu will build around ancient trees rather than clear. The times when they are forced to fight the land, it's always measured and the materials are someone incorporated into the building. If trees have to be fell, then that timber is used in the construction. Same for rocks, soil, sand, and other natural recurring elements.
A Karu exploring some ruins
The Divine Order of the Phoenix Official Flag
Significant presence in