Sea Predators (StoneShell Clan)
When the king is nearing the age that fighting on the disc holds terror for him, he will appoint a presumed, usually his oldest son. Once his son becomes an adult, they wait for a volcanic eruption. When the lava flows, it is now legal to challenge the presumed. There is a ceremony where the people gather around the flowing lava, stretch a bronze disc on metal poles above the lava and someone volunteers or a challenger is chosen by dice rolled upon the book called the Protocol, which is the law that rules all the Sea Predators. If lava flows before the presumed is an adult, any adult may challenge the king. The challenger must have fasted for three days and go barefoot on the disc and take no weapons. The king does not need to fast, he wears sandals, and he can take all the weapons he wants. This keeps the number of challenges low. If the presumed is challenged, both presumed and challenger must fast for three days, go on the disc barefoot, and wrestle for one minute, attempting to throw the opponent into the hot lava. If one does not kill the other within that time, spears are tossed to them. They now have ten minutes to try to kill each other. Someone MUST die. If neither wins in the ten minute time, the disc is tilted and both are slid into the lava. Then two new challengers are either chosen by dice or by volunteering. Once an opponent has been killed, the winner is allowed to go to a healer’s tent and stay there overnight if he wishes, or he can hike to the beach right away. No one can help the designate during his hike. He enters a water chariot reserved for kings for ceremonies, and a water beast pulls the chariot back to the main island, where a feast is held and the designate is crowned. The old king trains the designate for five years and then may retire and live wherever he wishes. It is illegal to harm either the new or old king and any of their family. Only the new king may be challenged as long as the lava flows. Once the eruption stops, the window on challenges closes. It is illegal to harm the family of a challenger either while he fasts or after he succeeds or fails. These rules were written into the Protocol during a negotiation between the worshipers of the Giver and the worshippers of the goddess of war. After the civil war that nearly destroyed what little was left of the Sea Predators, they wanted orderly transitions from king to king, and they wanted to keep their custom of fighting over a pit of knives. Since the soil is generally a few inches deep, they agreed to use lava instead. Only once has a woman challenged. She died quickly. Commoners are allowed to challenge and become king if they win. In two hundred years a commoner has won once. Since they are farmers and fishermen, they don’t spend the hours the young nobility spend daily practicing to fight. There is now only one place where killing is legal- on an obstacle course where warriors, noble sons, and presumed practice. Since the killer is likely to be killed within the minute by the friends of the one he killed, people seldom take the opportunity to kill an enemy there. It is treason to sail out of sight of the islands of Stone Grove. It is feared the sailor might be captured by Southils and tortured into revealing the site of Stone Grove. The penalty for treason is to be stuffed into a small bamboo cage and thrown either into hot lava or a bonfire. Any attempted or successful assassinations outside the legal challenge of the disc has the same punishment of being burnt in a bonfire. It is considered a great shame on the family if a family member is executed in the fire instead of being buried at sea.
Major language groups and dialects
With only five books on the islands of Stone Grove, there is not a lot of reading. Still, the children of the nobility and royalty are taught to write and read alphabet-based spelling. They write on the sand and on paper or fish skin that is used for petitions and love letters. Many of the commoners also learn how to read Predator. Only the royalty also learns how to read Great Tongue, and the pulse code of the Shlak.
Culture and cultural heritage
The StoneShell Sea Predators are a unique blend of Sea Predator and Southil people. For hundreds of years the Sea Predator decedents have ruled the Southil decedents as Royalty over Commoner. But much of the culture of the Southil has suffused the Sea Predator customs, softening them significantly. There are a number of festival days with origins long forgotten. The investiture of a designate is a festival day, which might be any day. And then five years later, the transfer of the crown from the old king to the new is another festival day. There are a few festivals that are attached to particular islands, such as the Fire Festival on Fire Island.
Shared customary codes and values
It is frowned upon but punished only with scorn for a noble to marry a commoner. It is forbidden to anyone in the family of the king, meaning his siblings and their children. The one commoner that became king was elevated to royalty and he was allowed to marry a noble with red hair. The number of commoners with lighter hair than usual shows that while nobility might not marry commoners, nothing stops them from having sex with them. Rape is illegal, but like everywhere else, since men are generally stronger, sometimes they force women into sex and/or marriage. Despite thousands of years having passed since Earth westerners crashed on the planet, they still carry with them the notion that men and women are basically equal and share in the same customs and food. There are no food taboos. Commoners may speak to the king, but they should not look at him while they do so. A man who beats his wife is mocked mercilessly for being a coward who beats someone weaker than him. If she has a male relative who is substantially larger than her husband, that relative is expected to beat the man. The mocking goes on until either the man leaves or the woman leaves the marriage. Whatever she owned before the marriage and made after the marriage stays with her. Because most of them live in bamboo houses clustered close to each other (to open more room for fields), wife-beating is easily detected.
Average technological level
Bronze casting, glass blowing and sculpting, seafaring.
Common Dress code
Men dress in simple pleated skirts that fall just below the knees and are usually shirtless. Women wear skirts and wrap around tops. Most fabric is rough plant fiber based and has stamped ink designs of plants, shells and other natural objects. Royalty will occasionally wear ornamented capes on special occasions.
Art & Architecture
Everyone lives in single-story bamboo houses with floors raised about waist high. The exception is the bamboo palace that sits on the ground and has glass block floors. Occasionally there is a room reserved as a bedroom, but most rooms are used for work, and the house members sleep wherever they hang up a hammock. Most cooking is done in open-sided huts close to or attached to the main house. The bamboo palace has a few glass windows, in the throne room, but all the other windows are either simple openings in the wall or may be covered with shutters made of dried fish skin from transparent fish. Most art is very stylized with the exception of the portraits of kings. These portraits adorn coinage and the Bronze Disk. Bright colors and bold patterns are popular. Common decorative accessories are shells feathers and bronze wire jewelry.
Common Customs, traditions and rituals
Lawsuits are brought to the king for adjudication. His decision is final, though he may change his mind for the sake of mercy. There is one temple per island maintained by the priests. There are traditional markings on the pillars that only the worshippers of Vanquish All can read, since the Sea Predators as a whole have adapted the Southil alphabet. Only the priests and royals can read the two stolen Holy Books because it is written in Southil, and they are the only ones who learn Southil. How the worshippers of the hag of war teach their children is unknown, for the worshippers of the hag have sworn to secrecy in an agreement that allows them to continue their religion. Marriages are held inside the temples. The priests sail out to sea burials. Priests and protocol officers attend all festivals and important events. Religious instruction consists of memorizing the Holy Books translated into Predator.
Birth & Baptismal Rites
Infants are usually not named until an adult 'sees something' about them worth noting. At which point the adult will start calling the child that name. Other adults in the child's orbit may or may not like the name, and they essentially 'vote' by calling the child that name or not. Eventually a consensus forms and the name sticks. Royalty tend to name their children after aspirational concepts. Commoners find that practice to be pompous, and seem to name their children in a more whimsical fashion as a means of backlash.
Coming of Age Rites
Commoners rarely participate in coming of age rights, but for Royalty, their rights are the most important thing in their lives. Males train relentlessly from the moment they can walk, because they must be prepared to Prove if the volcano erupts during their Age of Proving. They must be prepared to fight to the death on the Bronze Disc suspended above a river of lava.
Funerary and Memorial customs
All Sea Predators are buried at sea unless they have committed particularly heinous crimes, in which case their body is burned.