Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Shire of Vale - The Holds of Men in The Valley of Baryn

It can be said that the people of Vale are a simple folk, but to do so would be to greatly under-sell them. When I first arrived in Vale, I was taken immediately by how closely its people choose to live with their environment. This is not to say that they do not exploit the resources of the region, but that they always have, in their mind, that which is the least damaging and more natural of ways to do so.

Vale is a complicated place, being void of a central government and reliant upon the civility of neighbors for any greater organization beyond the local township, one could imagine there to be a great deal of chaos. This is, of course, far from the truth. An unwritten but universally accepted rule is abided by almost every township, honoring the individual laws and rules of whatever town, village or settlement you are in. Breaking this covenant is a sorely frowned upon act and usually met with the level of disdain and reaction that such a treacherous betrayal of universal trust and kinship should. The rules and morals of these holdings is not completely random, however, as most of Vale's people come from the same original founding people who settled this place over a thousand years ago.

Ethnically speaking, the people of Vale are a dusky-skinned folk from an ancient race of seafolk who settled here during the Age of Lore. Skin tones run from an olive tone to a rich copper color with hair usually of a red or brown color, but going as dark as black. A thousand years of mingling with traders and immigrants from across the northern mountains has brought fairer skin and hair into the valley shire. The folk of Vale tend to run the middle when it comes to height averaging about 5' 8" for men and 5' 4" for women. Their build is a stocky one and though strong and powerful at their core, they always seem "well-fed" and softened. The language of Vale is known and Haelic and is a more guttural, rural derivative of that spoken in their native land of Haelden.

The Haelic people of Vale are a very equal society with men and women holding nearly equal positions in societies. This has stemmed from the stark nature of their existences and the need for everyone to be a fully functional part of their society. Though the day to day domestic duties usually fall to the mothers and wives and eldest daughters while men and sons take care of the more physical duties - hunting, fighting, farming, etc, these are not mutually exclusive by gender. For a son to help his mother with her household chores and a daughter to spend time in the woods with her father is encouraged and considered a sure way to foster well-rounded children who will more likely maintain happy marriages and foster stronger family bonds, an essential in this wilderness land.

The average family in Vale has anywhere from three to six children and most are spaced close together. The Haelic people of Vale believe in having all the children they are going to have quickly while things are good as you never know when things might take a turn for the worse and make for a risky pregnancy, birth, or both. Children are cherished members of communities and it is not uncommon for one or more younger ladies to take on the duties of caring for large collections of children from several families. Such groupings are known and Fosterings and are a central part of the Haelic child's early upbringing. Children are considered capable of adult responsibility at the age of 14 and it is at this time that they become a fully contributing member of their society.

As it has been mentioned before, Vale and the Valley of Baryn is a rich place. The people of Vale are farmers, woodsmen, hunters, miners, herders and craftsmen of all sorts. Haelic herders of Vale are known for the luxurious wool and goat hair knits that they make out of their local breeds. Haelic horses are a stout breed standing only slightly taller than a pony with a longer, bushier hair. Cattle is not well-known in Vale, the large beasts taking up far too much space to raise successfully, but there is a breed of local ox which is used for labor. The local dog breed, a half-wide crossbreed with local wolves is known as the Kopsehound and is renowned for its ability to track prey over great distances and through the thickest of underbrush.

At the southern end of the valley where it rolls down into Bethal Bay and the town of Bethalport, the men here are a stern breed, stoic and with a particularly gruff sense of humor. Brinefolk as they are known, called so because of the scent of salt and sea that seems to permeate every bit of them. Here the normal Haelic culture is tinged with that of a maritime tradition and the interaction that comes with the various tradesmen that make this rustic port a trading post as well as a fishing port. Brinefolk like to keep houses which are made more lavish than those found elsewhere in the valley. Much of this has to do with the profits to be earned through trade but also in that much of the life of a Brinefolk wife is spent at home, her luxuries the only solace during her husband's and sons' long absences at sea. This "upper scale" lifestyle has brought the term, "Brine Wife" into play, even in the northern parts of the valley where it is seen as a particularly nasty remark in reference to a lady.

The folk of Vale are what most would call rustic and prefer it that way. The simple lives they lead are full of richness and true character which has gone from most of the nations of men. They protect this freedom with a steadfastness that goes well beyond simple home defense. Outsiders are not shunned by these kind-hearted folk and it is often said that the people of Vale are far too trusting of strangers, but for them to have it any other way would be to turn their backs on the beliefs they have striven so hard to shape and maintain.

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