The Mountain Men
The Peku-Enkra constitute the bulk of the population of the Peku and Enkra mountain chains. The names 'Peku' and 'Enkra' refer to their language families, which are broad enough that their dialects are often unintelligible to each other; and both names mean 'correct speakers'. They are a hardy and ingenious people. Their tall palaces and temples, gilt in gold and arrayed in splendid waterworks, are wonders of the world. And their great highways stretching along the Peku-enks for thousands of miles from Pakakoli to Yuito are equal to any of the famous Nelqorana roads, and are still in good preservation.
The mountains of Aran have seen many empires of these peoples rise and fall. The people of the Peku-enks are familiar to the sight of imperial ruins, and patiently tolerate the current hegemony of the Empire of Kilae. This is the first time that foreigners, the Men of Acoma, have been able to tame the mountain peoples. Of course, this was only possible due to Magic. Without it, the lands of the Peku-Enkra are too wild, too large, and its people too fierce to manage for any lengthy period of time.
The Land and Its People
The name Peku-Enkra properly refers to the peoples of the highlands of the Aranaen south-western mountains. But colloquially it refers to all the ethnicities of the Peku and Enkra mountain regions. These ethnic groups are large in population and diverse in cultural scope, and in great part this is because of their land and geography. The Aranaen mountains are among the tallest in the world, and span perhaps the longest lengths of any mountain chain in the world; so they are rich in diversity of terrains, vegetation, animals, and peoples.
There are eight layers of the Peku and Enkra mountain chain. Each has its own unique qualities, people groups, and means of survival. They are regional bands, stretching across the mountains, delineated according to their altitude. As such, these eight layers, besides the Coastal Deserts, Upper Forest, and Lower Forest, lay on both sides of the mountains.
The Eight Layers are, in order of appearance:
- Upper Forest
- Lower Forest
The first layer, the coastal deserts and valleys, called the Yuip, lays on the western boundaries of the Peku mountains, and on the southern side of the Enkra. Great rivers descending from high mountains streak ribbons of green across the drylands. The coastal deserts eventually roll into the broad plains and shallow valleys of the Tumbebaba Length in the far western reaches of the Peku mountains. The Chimche people founded their great civilization, there. They were known for their clay works, and for monumental arches standing solitary in empty fields; and their regalias made of seashells have entered the popular consciousness as, rightfully, being both very wonderful and very strange to look upon. Where irrigation is practicable the valleys are lush with croplands. And south of the Enkra lay the twin vales of Urana and Urele, like two great prongs piercing the Placid Sea. In these valleys were a mysterious jungle folk called the Llanku. The empires of the Enkra much envied them for their gold, wood, and colorful feathers.
The Pengas, also called the Pews, is a narrow but diverse band of forest along the eastern slopes of the Peku-enks. It is a transitional zone between the highlands and the coastal deserts. On the inner sides of the mountains, facing the Xakapu, it is the transitional zone between the highlands and the lower forests. It is consistently rainy, wet, and humid. It is also oftentimes a sheer place, with leering cliffs of moss and vine and stone rising up to great heights, defying vision, heart-taking, staggering in their size. But oftentimes it is perfectly level, so that if one is standing on a tall hill they could see the great Pengas stretching out before them, ever-going, a heavy cloud descended on the trees like a shroud. And still, higher up, there are terrains that are familiar to an Erubite: copses of evergreen trees and pines and coagulations of highland scrubs in genial woods and plains. Throughout the Pengas lay great plantations of cocoa, an important intoxicant of the southern peoples, harvested as much for religious purposes as for recreational use. And while there have been no great civilizations to rise out of this band, the peoples here have always been important for any wannabe empire due to their productivity. Most famous of these peoples are the Waymi, famed for their ability to swiftly climb the variety of trees in the Pengas.
Above the Pengas lays the Peku. Not to be confused with the people, or with the mountains themselves, the Peku is the most temperate of the regional bands and is the most productive highland ecozone. The Peku constitutes the area just above the Pengas, and the majority of the central mountain valleys of the Peku-enks. In the valley bottoms dry-farming produces maize, beans, garden vegetables, native grains quinao and cañihua, a variety of potatoes, ulluco, oca, and mashwa, and the legume called talwi. Because elevation decreases the growing season, mighty irrigation projects were begun intending to accelerate the beginning of the agricultural cycle. The great fertility of this region has made the Peku band the origin of all the empires of the Peku-enks. The most famous empires were, in increasing order of square miles of land held, the Wairanku, the Tiri, the Camac, the Tumicipaca, the Santa, and, the last native empire as well as the largest, the Vilcānyánwánsâryâ.
Above the Peku is the Rency region. It is a cold land, filled with high, sheer hills, ridges, and deep glacial valleys. It is a dry land. This zone is especially productive for tubers, quinoa, and talwi. It is also a bountiful land in deer and is the home of the mighty condor. Being among the less productive regions, the people here are little in population. The most populous of these people are the Galgiba, who are famed for their powerful singing voices.
Above the Rency is the Sency region, an alpine tundra that is the natural habitat of the Peku-enks camelids. The weather is usually cold and damp, with heavy fogs and terrible storms with fierce thundering storm walls that roll over the ground during the wet season. This region is used for herding alpacas and llamas and hunting guanacos, vicuñas, and various kinds of deer. And while the Sency is marginal for most agriculture, some kinds of frost-resistant tubers are farmed, here. But the importance of alpacas and llamas for their meat and wool makes the Sency an invaluable region for any would-be ruler of the mountains. The region is largely populated by 'archipelago villagers'. Most people of the Sency band are not native to it. Oftentimes women, villagers are sent from their lower altitude Aicya to manage their respective herds for long spans of time. These villages can be very far from their herding grounds. Some are up to three weeks walking distance away. Among the natives, the Grimv people are the most populous. They are believed to be descendants of the shamans of the even farther Qancho band, and much superstition surrounds them.
Highest up is the bone-chilling cold of the Qancho region. Permanent snowcaps and glacial lakes are what you will find, here. And there is abundant mineral wealth. But Dwarrow are not the only people you will find, here. No, for even in these high wastelands you will find the Peku-Enkra. There are very few of them, though. It is a terribly hard land. But because of their tenacity they have a reputation among the lowlanders as being powerful warlocks. And their little huts, covered in pelts, have many appearances in the old myths of the Peku-Enkra, being the source of much wisdom and heavenly insight.
Upper and Lower Forest
Much farther down, facing the Xakapu, are the Upper Forest and Lower Forest bands. The Upper Forest is the jungle that rises to the foothills of the Peku-enks. The Lower Forest is the peripheral rainforest, eventually extending and meeting the Xakapu jungle proper. Both are sparsely populated, but the people that do live there, the Pumbes, the Olliphx, the Pitchti, and the Huizoe, have access to resources that the mountain folk greatly desire: namely, luxury woods.
Lastly to add is that there has always been a rivalry between the highlanders and the lowlanders, with each believing the other to be barbaric, uncouth, weak, etc. While the highlanders have always been the more populous, and oftentimes more powerful, of the two, the lowlanders are the more ancient civilization. So there is much frustration between the peoples: strength against pedigree.
The Peku and the Enkra
For most of this article we have treated the Peku and Enkra peoples as similar enough to be treated as a unit. But in truth they are a people separated by vast distances, and have many differences. Of course, being neighbors, they have many similarities as well. Below, we write about these differences and similarities with a closer eye.
They are similar in their communication methods. Largely oral societies, neither group developed extensive writing systems. Both rather use mnemonic devices by which they could store information, from poetry to market prices. While these devices often differ in appearance, they are largely similar in function. They use knots, beads, and lengths of string or wire to create patterns from which the user can draw and recall information. As such, these devices are particular to the individual, which is consistent with the Peku and Enkra tendency to mostly socially organize according to personal homages and obligations.
Most often these mnemonic devices would take the form of a great mass of bands tied around the arm, knotted in many places. The user would then only need to fiddle with it as he recounted. For some, these bands would be made of gold, and studded with precious metals or silvers. So it was told that the great poet of the Vilcān, Initiy, wore his; and by it he could tell ten-thousand lines.
Today, with the domination of the Empire of Kilae, the Acomese tongue and writing system has spread to the mountains and disseminated through the upper governing institutions. But it has not penetrated at all the consciousness of the general public. Largely, the masses use their local dialects and have little knowledge of the Common Acomese tongue.
The Peku-Enkra are also similar in the widespread natures of their languages. It's been told already that Peku and Enkra are widespread language families, but considering the vast distances and variety of terrains they cover, it's more surprising that they retain their unique forms with any consistency. So the organizing mind of the Peku-Enkra is shown, again. And their languages largely (though not at all entirely) fall under either one of these two umbrellas. And the families themselves have many similarities. The peoples of the Peku and Enkra have often interfaced, so many words are shared between them, and many public words of the Dwarrow of Felegost have found their way into the common lexicon.
Their basic foodstuff are largely similar, although their cooking is not. They also share in their beasts of burden: llamas.
But in architecture they depart greatly. While the Peku like to build high monuments and fill their valleys with many stone creatures with fierce faces, the Enkra prefer long, broad buildings, and they do not make graven images of their gods. The Enkra are also a cave people, and their greatest city, Huitylpa, is built in a vast cavern filled with many crystal lights. But the Peku love the high places of the world, and most dear to them are the steep cliffs and tall hills. And while the Enkra have a great friendship with the Dwarrow of Felegost, the Peku are mistrustful of them, and consider them dangerous sorcerers.
In religion the Peku have long been monotheistic. The influence of past empires and their subsequently created state religions has impressed on the Peku mind the supremacy of the Sun God Veranin. But the common folk also hold onto their old beliefs of the full animation of the world. This is not so much a numinous awe of all things, but is rather a belief that interaction with the natural things of the world is to be held at a similar gravity as that of interaction with other people. But the Enkra still firmly hold onto their ancestral animistic beliefs with no monotheistic influence, and their empires have never enforced a state religion that has long held popular attention.
Both religions have a great appreciation for the highland lakes, and both consider the lake Bihimama, which lays at the south-western corner of Aran, between the Enkra and Peku chains, as the source of the Sun and Moon.
And as for the matter of their opinions on Elves, they are both in communion. They hold that the Elves, and for them that means the Pirisqwik (sometimes the Ishvamöinen), are a dreadful people best to be avoided.