Of Crows, Dirt and Dongs
Culture of Kirrougen
Being a martially weak nation the Kirrougeans place huge value on trade, diplomacy, and knowledge. A man could stroll into the city with nothing in his pockets, but as long as he had news and could tell it well, he would be able to find comfortable accommodations for the night and a hot meal.
No profession is frowned upon as long as it is performed with skill and is profitable – so a street performer who plays well for his coins (and he would earn many coins as the Kirrougeans love art of any kind) would be more respected than a noble who does nothing but sit in his estates living off the labour of others. The noble of course would still be treated politely, but he would be given the highest price on anything he sought to purchase or rent and few would volunteer to assist him in any way.
It is common practice for visitors to come on some pretext of business – whether it’s trade, politics, tuition, or in the case of the visiting faithful – pilgrimage (because only the truly naive believe the clergy spend all their time contemplating how wonderful their gods are).
Cleverness and imagination are very highly regarded as they are seen to be traits that allow Kirrougeans to flourish in their society; and because of this movement between the various classes is much more fluid than in some other cultures. A noble could go into trade, or an artisan could dedicate her skills to the service of her goddess. There are many guild and temple schools that will teach at least basic reading and writing to children for free, and even take on especially bright children whose parents cannot afford any further education as pupils seeing in them an investment. Having no skills is treated with contempt because then you are forever a burden to someone else.
Where the barriers are strong, is between the merchant clans. Contracts and contacts are jealously guarded, with children who chose to become artisans instead of traders still being kept within the clan. Intermarriage is rare, as one of the couple must renounce all ties to his or her clan and be formally adopted into their spouses clan. The prospect of losing their family is often the end of any budding relationships, and the argument of who exactly would have to make the sacrifice tends to blunt the ardour of the most passionate lovers. Thankfully the clans are relatively large, and there are no such restrictions when dealing with anyone not affiliated with another merchant clan, so they are not as insular as may first appear.
Inner courtyard of a merchant family’s compound.
Kirrougeans tend to pick up customs, fashions, and even gods, from the many peoples they trade or have diplomatic relations with, as strikes their fancy. So it is at the same time very easy and very difficult to make a social faux pas. Easy because you never know the personal affiliations of the person you are dealing with, and hard because the locals are very much aware of just how different everyone is and so have a high tolerance for social awkwardness.
They tend to have a distinct Baklunish flavour to their architecture and fashions. Kirrougen itself is of mostly very pale stone (marble in the richer quarters and limstone in the poorer ones) to reflect the hot southern sun, but any colours present are always kept bright and fresh. The temples and the palace are like birds of paradise on festive days – a riot of colour that visitors from the more monochromatic nations to the north often find jarring. On the inside the buildings are as richly decorated as possible. Complexes of buildings will often have one or more courtyards, space permitting, with gardens and ponds . It is seen as a matter of status to be able to have purely decorative plants and fish as obviously the inhabitants are wealthy enough to not need to grow any of their own food.
Clothing is usually silk and often baggy to keep cool, but can be layered into heavy robes during the brief southern winter. The clothing is fairly unisex as women are not restricted to skirts, and there are enough priests and scholars that robes are not viewed as unmanly. Patterns are currently out of fashion however, with the young peacocks at court taking it to the extreme of colour matching everything. The riot of colour becomes muted in the poorer quarters as the inhabitants cannot afford to either initially purchase, or refresh the expensive dyes.
Public baths at the palace. There are multiple rooms, and people may bathe in gender-segregated baths or together depending on personal preference.
In their interpersonal relations, Kirrougeans have instead taken after their Flan ancestors. Strongly independent they can be quick to anger, but also quick to forgive. Incredibly prideful of their skills, they cannot understand how some nations would segregate their genders, or restrict them to specific roles – to them it is almost a criminal waste of talent to lock a woman in the home if she is a skilled orator, or to force a man into soldiering if his talent lies in jewellery. Some historians believe this to be a product of the tough conditions for the original settlers – there was no time for the luxury such restrictions because every pair of hands was needed to do what they did best for the good of their community.
This spirit of community has in part transformed into an all encompassing friendliness – a Kirrougean will try and talk, perhaps have a drink with someone rather than engage in conflict of any kind. But the harsh reality of their tenuous position means that they also make fierce fighters when pushed to it. Martial and magical training is available to all who have the inclination and coin to pay for it. Some temples will sponsor their clerics for martial training if they express a desire to explore the wider world.