Devil worshipers to other humans, and unlikely friends to the Elves. The Vanks are a race that are steeped in superstition, known for their prestigious academies that follow magical arts and practices that are often found forbidden in other circles. They are one of the three major Kingdoms to rise during the feudal era of the Humans, and are both revered and feared for their practice of Devilbinding and Necromancy.
Sabine, Astride, Lucette, Victorine, Roxane, Chantal, Honorine
Felix, Maurice, Verres, Hector, Jean, Benoit, Clement
Lou, Celeste, Alix, Amour, Léonide, Augustin
Like many other human family names, Vank last names come from an era where they were used to name one's occupation rather than their family. This in time evolved into actual common last names, seen below. Plourde, Belrose, Perrault, Firmin, Beringer, Gosselin,
Major language groups and dialects
Vank: The Vank language is known to carry a lot of different terminology from the Infernal tongue. It is often not practiced outside of Ignan due to its association with demons and humanity's general superstition towards demons, leading to Vanks often being called speakers of the 'Devil's Tongue' Common: The common language spoken by humanity is also spoken by the Vanks.
Culture and cultural heritage
Vank culture has a very distinct see no evil rule. Their laws are notably exceptionally harsh to criminals that find themselves caught in the act. Crimes committed not only risk eternal damnation in the eyes of a Vank, but often times, their brutal punishments and methods of execution are seen as cruel and unusual to even themselves. The reason for this is that cruelty is often seen as the only true language that evil can ever truly comprehend, ensuring that the people and the citizens remain in line so long as they understand the consequences for their actions. Despite that, they are also very forgiving towards those that confess their sinful acts, and are known to be more lenient towards those that lack a criminal record; though one simple wrongdoing is enough to mark one's record with that act for life, leaving them one step away from incarceration or worse. Put simply: Thieves will not be able to steal without hands, and liars won't be able to spin their tales without their tongues. These methods have, historically, done well to keep crime low within Ignan, however, it still earned some measure of animosity from outsiders.
Common Etiquette rules
Vanks are very observant of body language and often have certain actions that show it. Bowing one's head in silence, for example, is often seen as a form of apology or parley; one's request to throw away past misdeeds and personal strife in favor of hopefully finding a more stable ground. Vank nobility is also particularly picky about certain actions taken when eating or dining. Stabbing your knife into food, for example, is considered not only rude, but is often a sign that you want to murder the chef. Placing a fork and spoon parallel to each other means that the meal was great, and you want more, whereas crossing them means you are full. To the Vanks, it is often common practice to forgive and forget. So long as one's transgressions are understood as wicked and wrong, and that they wish to atone, then their sins and misdeeds may be forgiven as long as they understand their misconduct.
Common Dress code
Vank men often wear ruffled shirts beneath all of their clothing, with tailcoats dark frocks being preferred. Women, on the other hand, are fond of wearing clothing that keeps modesty but leaves the body to be appreciated. The midriff is often left bare for their clothing. Vanks, being fond of brands, tattoos, and markings, often leave the skin exposed to reveal that brand or marking, leaving many women to opt not to have sleeves in the case of a few devilbinders. Most important is the Clergy's clothing; with priestesses often being named 'Red Priestesses' for the bright scarlet robes they wear.
Art & Architecture
Vanks often prefer buildings of stone over wood, with sturdy foundations raised above ground. They are also particularly fond of floral decorations, with many land owners preferring to keep a small garden to themselves. Particularly wealthy Vanks have their courtyards festooned with a variety of different potted plants amidst a meadow that's generous with its colours. Nobility are also known to commission special statues in the honour of particularly important people in their life, typically serving as a memorial to a lost loved one or person of significant importance to their life.
Common Customs, traditions and rituals
Thief Tree: A thief cannot steal without his or her hands. Thus, the thief tree! A simple and barbaric tradition, thieves or people that have particularly sticky fingers find their hands dismembered, leaving them free to be dangled from ropes left from a willow tree. These 'Thief Trees' are used to dissuade theft. Another method to dissuade crime is the gibbet, a similar method where executed criminals are placed into a cage and left to hang as an example. In some cases, the gibbet is used to contain living criminals instead, used as a form of humiliation to dissuade them from acting out on their crimes in the future. Public Torture & Execution: A very important part of Vank culture is the humilation of criminals. Those that commit crimes are often dealt with in the public, for all to see their shame -- and to further intimidate them from committing the same crimes those criminals committed. Penance Day: Penance Day is an important celebration performed once every year. The festival is held by the local church, which rouses the town by chiming its bell for a solid hour before the citizens are left to corral into town square. Some places often make attendance to Penance day mandatory, but the concept is simple; offering solemn prayers towards the sinful, and praying that their souls will find peace despite their wretched misdoings. Criminals are encouraged to come out during this time to announce their crimes, with priests absolving them of whatever sin might weigh upon their shoulders. At noon, the bells ring once more, this time to signal a grand feast to begin. The feast is organized by the Church over the course of the month. Necromancy/Devil Branding: Two separate 'licenses' that are made throughout Vank society. A silvered knife is heated over a fire, before it's quenched by a mixture of holy water and powdered silver. This blade is then used to etch a marking into the subject, which serves as a proper 'license' to signify that they're allowed to use spells that are otherwise forbidden in Vank society. Devil Branding allows one to work with demons, summon them, and subjugate them, whereas necromancy allows casters to use necromantic spells without fear of the law.
Funerary and Memorial customs
Thousand-Man Stand: The Thousand-Man Stand is the only mass grave found within Ignan. It is a massive meadow found surrounding Castle Belrose; whenever somebody of importance within a noble house or military unit dies, their body is taken to the 'Thousand-Man Stand'; a burial ground where a stone soldier is sculpted to their likeness, before it serves as their headstone. These stone soldiers are said to carry the souls of those departed, watching as silent sentiels over Castle Belrose should it ever come under siege. It is always under strict guard; with patrols and guardsmen constantly cycling in and out to halt any interlopers. Funeral Pyres: Necromancy might be accepted through a license, however, this only leads to furthering the Vanks' natural paranoia. Bodies are generally burnt at a pyre to prevent further raising, with their ashes then collected and distributed among their relatives.
Adultery: Adultery is a taboo that's met with derision. Those that are caught in the act are punished through mutilation, leaving permanent scars at the face to mark them as an adulterer. A common practice is the entire removal of the nose, but ever since the passing of the feudal era, this tradition has lead to simple scarification over the face.
Common Myths and Legends
Rusty Mae: An enigmatic folk figure by the name of Rusty Mae; said to be an elderly woman that lives within the far reaches of the Laughing Woods, a forest that borders Ignan. Rusty Mae is named so for her dark red hair and black claws, said to be as sharp and stiff as iron. She is the basis of a children's tale, guiding Vanks to be careful on trusting strangers. The tale is rather simple; Rusty Mae poses as a matron mother, promising safe haven to orphans. Unfortunately, those that accept this offer are taken into her home, where they're put into a stew pot and boiled alive for her and her pet hyenas to dine on.
Verres the Carver: The current Red King of Ignan. Verres is a renown warrior and soldier that has served alongside his men as a valiant fighter, leading the charge into battle and securing many victories in the past, including the victory against the The Faith Keepers during the crusades. Verres is a brilliant strategist and tactician, and among the few noble lords that are known to carry the curse of vampirism without losing the support of his subjects. He has the notorious name of 'The Carver' for his weapons of choice; a pair of large, single-edged swords that resemble a butcher's cleaver. His notorious victory over the Faith Keepers at Hunter's Reef also lead to him being celebrated as a hero for the Elven people, thanks to his army's swift defeat of the crusaders before they could complete their persecution. It also, however, lead to his reputation as a butcher, for the public execution he initiated is often described as a grisly slaughter. He took the Faith Keepers and Crusaders and hacked them through careful, practiced precision; joint by joint, until they were left a carcass hanging from the pole. Vespasian the Conqueror: Lord Vespasian Belrose was the first King of the Vanks, and lead his people into victory through the use of necromantic magics that lead to his people's appreciation of the forbidden arts. He was often described as a humble, polite and cordial man, but was not afraid to use harsh measures if it meant crushing his enemies; such was the case in his conquering over the feudal states of Tregaron. Vespasian earned the nickname of Pale Arm during his conquest; his arm was magical, but the side effects had lead to the flesh melding off to expose the skeleton. While this arm was rudimentary in being applied to most functions and affairs, its magic was not to be trifled with, capable of raising an army of the dead -- which he used to march upon those that stood in his path. Morrigan Belrose(née; Kendrick): Morrigan is often known for popularizing the use of Devilbinding -- and for her friendship with Thalia. These two things had lead to the crusaders capturing her and Thalia in a series of events that lead to the sacking of Hunter's Reef later, but Morrigan is often seen as a hero and a martyr to the Vanks. She and her devilbinders aided in allowing Elves to flee Tregaron freely, allowing them to pass through Ignan so that they would be able to set sail for the distant isle of Kalni. For her crime in aiding the Elves to their sanctuary, the Church pressed her and Thalia's face into a bed of hot coals, leading to a permanent disfigurement that earns her despised nickname of Lady Twinface. Seen as a martyr to her people, Morrigan dawns the scarred half of her face as a proud memory, believing it to be a glimpse into the Church's true side. Lionel Gehrmain: Lionel was among one of the many Vanks that denounced the Church during their crusades, though it was his word that lead to Ignan as a kingdom turning their back upon them. Now martyrd as a saint, Lionel is known for holding extremist views for a priest of Aine, believing that sin stains the flesh, which must be atoned through flagellant methods. Lionel was to be executed by the Church during the crusades, but set himself ablaze as a final act of defiance before they could execute him.
The Vanks are very fond of darker skin tones; this is primarily due to their frequent trades with Devkarth. They see darker skin as being 'fire-kissed' or 'sun-kissed' in a way, leaving them to not only be exotic, but to have been blessed to harness the power from Gehenna. They are also fond of other 'exotics'; Elves, Fianni, Cambions are all viewed as an 'exotic' creature to them. Cambions in particular are revered for their traits. Taller folk are considered to be commanding, strong, and intimidating, while shorter or scrawnier people are often seen as wizards and sorcerers due to magic often being associated with its hindering effects to the casters.
Women in Vank society are often expected to be studious; they're sent to academies at a young age, where they learn knowledge in any subject that they wish to pursue, though they are heavily encouraged to take special courses dedicated to learning magic. Mages in Vank society are greatly revered, and noblewomen almost always learn how to Devilbind at a young age. Men are often seen as the stoic protectors and guardians. While both are welcome to study academics, wizarding is often seen as a woman's job, while men are often expected to serve as the physical protectors and soldiers.
Vanks are somewhat weary to friendship due to their culture often being built upon the idea of 'how will this benefit me?' rather than us. As a result, a Vank often holds others at arms length until they feel comfortable enough to consider them more than an acquaintance, but are also just as diplomatic in the sense that they know to behave and remain courteous. Relationships are like any other business; one must keep a high regard and impression of oneself in order to earn one's trust. Love, and actual friendship, is thus, very important to the Vanks. Love in particular is expected to last until death, with divorce being a taboo subject amongst the Vanks.
I really enjoyed the level of cultural details you've put into the article, and I really enjoy the way you've subverted the usual fantasy trope of "the evil devil-binding empire". With these guys, it's not so obvious, especially if you are an elf. Really great stuff :)
Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.