Jelliene, Mariean, Allisea, Belle, Emmelou
Carvier, Honorian, Haques, Corbon, Valice
Auveri, Deor, Myrel, Ronai, Touris
de Fortemon, à Mortierre, Genmoi, Cettemar, de Quinoux
Major language groups and dialects
Castelians speak a unique language known as La Parole, a flowing, flowery language noted for its poetic nature. Linguists are unsure of the exact origins of the language, as it shares very little in common with other languages spoken by Hyuirn subgroups. It is possible that due to the centuries spent in relative isolation away from the affairs of the greater Realmscape, that the language developed as a massive departure and evolution of a long-forgotten dialect, mutated over time to become its own language.
Shared customary codes and values
Castelian social structure is ordered around a set of rules and strictures commonly called the Code of Civility, by which all citizens are expected to follow. While breaking of the code rarely comes with legal punishment, it is a critical social faux pas to be avoided. The Code is labyrinthine and at times self-contradictory. In essence, it attempts to lay down the expectations for interactions between all potential social groups. Whether this be how a low class worker is to interact with a high noble, or a middle-class business owner to their equally well-off customers, the Code will often detail at least cursory social notes to be maintained. Outside of the Code, Castelians are united in their order-oriented mindset. Unity, duty, and obedience are the highest of ideals in their culture, ones which they believe any society must have in order to function properly, smoothly, and prosperously.
Art & Architecture
Function is often preferred to form in Castelian architecture. As their name would imply, they are masters of constructing defensible fortifications, and their ideals for architectural beauty are based on this. Their homes are often made of sturdy materials, with thin, tall windows crossed with metal bars. Doors are heavy and can be secured on the inside by a wooden brace. Rarely are buildings outside of the largest and most lofty constructed with actual rooms, instead featuring easily moveable and foldable dividers. Cities are often constructed in leveled tiers, with the more important buildings--especially those to any military endeavors--placed higher on the artificial hills that offer their keeps greater view of their surroundings. Cities are then divided into several baileys, in the event of siege. Castelian art, meanwhile, is often elaborate and decorative. Their love of form has led to the development of precise, mathematical ideals for painting, with golden ratios and exact angles being the very core foundation of these works. Music is orderly and follows strict conventions of meter. Poems rarely if ever break away from traditional patterns of rhyming or cadence, and literature often deals with romantic portrayals of the lives of important historical figures or encounters between knights and their enemies.
Birth & Baptismal Rites
Birth is one of the happiest occasions for a family in Castelian society, and as such the announcement of a pregnancy and of a birth are both lavish, festive affairs. When an expecting couple are first made aware of their pregnancy, they will often invite family (both nuclear and extended) and close friends together to celebrate with food and stories of the happy parents-to-be. The birth itself is a more lavish celebration, with the entirety of the village (or subsidiary in the case of larger cities) being welcomed into the house to both celebrate as well as to present the babe with gifts. During the event, usually called a Christening, respected elders often come to present the child with practical gifts; things that the child may need growing up such as a leatherworker's awl, or an arming sword. These items typically are handed down from their own christening ceremony, or were items that they believe brought them good luck. Those who are members of the clergy or the magically gifted may come to offer blessings on the child, in the hopes that they might grow to be wise, pure of heart, and sound of mind. Acquaintances often gift things such as clothing, toys, or other items useful more immediately, or offer the parents their aid in the rearing of the child, such as a grocer offering a discount for the next few years. Christenings are also a key cultural symbol for the family as a whole. On this day, the parents will officially announce the child's name, and as such, welcome them into the family proper. By presenting the name and the child before the assembled guests, the custom seeks to establish deeper connections between the community, as all the participants are thereby considered to be part of an extended family of sorts for the child, and as such, have a vested interest in their success and health growing up.
Coming of Age Rites
Every child, male or female, rich or poor, is expected to undertake an Apprenticeship before being welcomed as an adult. For many, this will involve learning a family trade underneath the watchful eye of their parent, while for others they may be sent to a local monastery or cloister to learn theology. Still others, and the most lauded members of society, will undergo a Squirehood underneath a successful knight, after which they will be welcomed as a future leader and figurehead of their hometown. Failure to complete an Apprenticeship is a mark of great shame not only against the child, but against the family as well. As such, not only is failure rarely accepted, but those who choose to ignore their Apprenticeship are often outcast from their homes, wandering the streets as vagabonds with little hope of assistance from their fellow countrymen. Those who do not leave Castelian territory and seek a new life in the wider worlds may fall into banditry and other acts of skullduggery in order to secure a meager living, or become mercenaries in the various wars between noble houses.
Funerary and Memorial customs
Death is as great a time for mourning in a family as birth is a time of joy. Though exact details of funerary ceremonies will vary depending on the place or the status of the deceased, most all Castelians will follow a near universal basis of how to carry out a memorial. After an individual passes on, their body will be taken to the nearest religious building (often the village temple) to be preserved and autopsied. Though most Castelians are incredibly superstitious about being in close proximity to the dead, much less touching a corpse, priests and doctores will examine the deceased to determine the cause of death, after which they will begin to embalm the body. How well-preserved the body is also depends on the financial means of the remaining family. Once the body has been preserved, the family will retain ownership of it, organizing the funeral and inviting the guests; these events often draw as many attendees as a Christening, with even the most remote of acquaintances coming to offer the family their condolences. Bodies will be buried in traditional coffins, with the body dressed in good clothing, and often accompanied by tools of their trade, or objects that are befitting of their station and status in life. Following a ceremony of remembrance, the casket will be borne by four to six pallbearers (a nobleman's most loyal retainers, or a layman's closest friends) in a long funerary march to the family grave plots. To be asked to serve as a pallbearer is one of the highest honors, and it is not unheard of for volunteers to emerge to take unidentified corpses on their final walk. Families often maintain a grave plot, with generations of a line buried in close proximity. These graves are protected and maintained by professional graveyard tenders, or in more dangerous areas (such as those prone to attacks by the Undead) by trained knights or battle priests. Once the body is buried and the family and other mourners leave, priests will come to perform the last rite of sending, preventing the deceased's spirit from returning to haunt the land of the living.
With a society structured as heavily and rigorously as theirs, Castelians hold many social taboos. Most vary in degrees of severity, but even a minor social faux pas can be enough to draw the ire of a particularly conservative individual, or sour future relations. Decorum and protocol are infused into most every social interaction, with various social scripts being observed to maintain a "decent" society. Minor infractions may include failure to remove one's hat when addressing a member of the nobility, or physical contact between strangers. More major offenses include the insulting of another's moral character, threats, or general disruption of peace. Depending on the infraction, there could be social consequences such as being shunned by "good mannered folk," or even legal repercussions if a law exists that also forbids certain practices or behaviors.
Common Myths and Legends
Legend holds that the first Castelians were proud warriors who followed the legendary Louivos sans Rival on a perilous quest in search of a new home. These brave knights are said to be the founders and first Lords of the various Noble Houses that found the backbone of society, while the common folk are said to have been the faithful retainers and followers of the knights who braved the perils in the hopes of a better life. Various books (all of varying degrees of historical authenticity) exist detailing the exploits of Louivos and his court, with the most popular being the Travails des Braves, a massive epic manuscript that details Louivos and his closest companions during the formative years of the Castelian kingdom. Their exploits range from the hunt for holy artifacts, battles against evil sorcerers and monsters, to the political intrigue Louivos supposedly faced in cementing both his claim to the throne, and securing his burgeoning nation's borders. Most legends in Castelian society--or at least the most enduring and celebrated--are these examples of hero worship. Cities and villages may hold an individual of high moral character as a patron saint, with their heroic deeds being recorded as the basis for their canonization. Other stories may deal with various myths and superstitions, such as the fear of exposed nails bringing bad luck, or nursery rhymes detailing good and bad behavior via moralistic tales.
Castelian beauty is derived from several factors. The first is physical beauty, which emphasizes different traits between men and women. For men, carefully manicured facial hair is considered high fashion, and in general wearing facial hair is seen as a sign of wisdom and manliness. Castelian society values strength of arms and courtly behavior, and as such men are also expected to be well toned if not outright muscular, and maintain good posture. Women, meanwhile, are valued for being demure and pale, and fair-haired. One rather interesting quirk of female beauty is a love of long, thin fingers. In the strict, borderline caste-based society in which Castelians live, there is an emphasis on courtly behavior and politeness in public. The lower classes are expected to be deferential to their social betters, while the higher classes and nobility are to be fair and fatherly/matronly in return. While this may simply be seen as a social ideal, it bleeds into the mythos of physical beauty, as physically attractive people are seen as more likely to be of higher social integrity, and thus deserving of more affection and attention.
Men are expected to be of strong constitution and strong wills, as they are seen as the leaders and protectors of their people and communities. Women, meanwhile, are taught to be thoughtful and skilled, with women holding the majority of merchant and skilled tradesmen positions in Castelian society. In more detail, men are more strictly told how to behave within social bounds. Men are expected to be polite and choosy with their words. To be boastful or to bloviate is considered uncouth. They are to follow the Civil Code to the letter, and must behave in an overall chivalrous manner to both men and women. Open interpersonal conflict is to be avoided in public, as are emotional outbursts. Women are to be providers for their families, and shepherds of their children. Expecting mothers and those with newborns or young children are often seen bringing their offspring with them, as it is considered poor conduct to leave a child behind until they have reached their seventh or eighth winter. Business savvy is often seen as one of the higher ideals among the lowlier classes, while the upper echelons of society value a woman with many varied skills, especially artistic talents.
In a traditional courtship, the man is expected to initiate the relationship. The man is also expected to provide for their partner throughout the courtship, often with elaborate gift-giving rituals and acts of charity to display their willingness to give of themselves for their lover. On the other side, the feminine partner is expected to reject any offers of assistance at least twice before accepting, and be willing to lavish their partner with praise when they do well. In these traditional relationships, inter-class mingling is seen as a terrible taboo. More modern, liberal ideals on courtship and dating approach it from an egalitarian perspective. This has led to a general desire for equitable treatment between both halves of a dating couple, as both should be willing to give and to take where necessary to produce a healthy, happy relationship. While this may seem to fly in the face of the traditionalist sentiment that fills Castelian culture, all of this occurs while still maintaining the Code of Civility.
Relationship ideals vary depending on the societal rung that the couple finds themselves in. In the higher or more noble classes, men are often leaders or warriors, and as such are expected to be exceedingly loving and shower their partner with attention and gifts when they have the rare moments of time alone. The women of these relationships are, on the other hand, expected to maintain a steady, happy home for their partner to return to, and be obedient to them, as they are guardians and leaders of the whole of their people. Lower classes value a more family-oriented set of ideals. Men are to be strong and protect the honor of themselves and their family, while women are to be either diligent homemakers or prudent business workers. Both man and woman are expected to provide for the family equally, and are often encouraged to acknowledge the efforts the other must make to maintain their level of living.