Culture of the Ashen Coast
Historically the Ashen Coast has comprised of several city-states, each culturally and politically distinct. However the events that lead to the rise and fall of the Empire of Turin lead to a somewhat swift and uncompromising unity of values. However, despite this, it would be unfair to generalise and it shall perhaps always remain the case that each city and region has its own culture and habits. This article merely exists to highlight those elements that are universal to the Coast, be they fallout from the Empire or otherwise. It will also attempt to provide some historical context, although further detail may be foundp. on other pages.
The dark time of the Empire lead to the following of several immoral and evil practices. Many of the temples to the gods of Good were destroyed, others desecrated and remade as shrines to the dark gods – particularly Toovik, Brath and Kostro. Polygamous marriage was made the law and men were encouraged to have as many children as possible – as more children meant more could be trained to serve in the Empire’s great warmachine. The treatment of women specifically reached an all-time low and in many cities they became little more than slaves.
The men of the Empire were bred for war and most could expect a life of harsh military servitude. Strength promised riches and success and such things as mercy and compassion were trained out of them.
The Empire was finally overthrown by a mage named Rialto some 50 years ago. Many still live that remember those times and whilst it is true that the majority were happy to see their cruel and oppressive rulers overthrown some, many of them powerful nobles or servants of the evil gods, fled into hiding. Rumours persist, even now, that dark cults meet in secret throughout the Empire, plotting to overthrow Emperor Rialto.
Those temples that survived were quickly re-consecrated to serve their original deity and the downtrodden people flocked to worship them – particularly those that seemed to offer hope or retribution. The youth, having been brought up on a diet of war found themselves turning to worship of Derne. Keyestra became a deity of hope for the future for many women. Finally, hastily constructed temples to Carriellana sprung up throughout the Empire, as people celebrated their new-found freedom. To this day, worship of these three gods is most common throughout the coast, although naturally almost all living nearest the sea know when to pay respects to Vadomer. Worship of other gods is by no means strange, however, and the majority of the good or unaligned deities find worship in some place or another along the coast.
Most were happy to give up the enforced thralldom to the evil deities. Those that did not wish to remain were free to leave the military. However, perhaps the hardest practise to undo has been the law of polygamy. Forbidden by the teachings of the good gods, Emperor Rialto quickly made it a criminal act. Most women were happy to not have to share their husband with another woman, although proceedings to sort the problem of dividing the marriages were long and complex. Attitudes were also hard to change, and even now in some places it is not unusual for a man to have more than one lover, even if he has only a single wife. However, thanks to the continued teachings of the priests of the various faiths, instances of such behaviour are falling.
Success through Strength
Although military service is no longer mandatory in most cities with a sizable enough population to draw from, the attitude that strength and victory results in wealth and success is still a prevailing one. For many, this has translated into a career in adventuring. However, this trait manifests in a variety of ways. A citizen of the coast may be less likely to accept medical or divine aid for his ills, for example, or a father might send his son out hunting a wild drake in the woods. Some less savoury towns and cities even have gladiatorial arenas. Such practises are not universal but where they are encountered they serve as a reminder of the prevailing attitude throughout much of the coast; might brings prosperity. Some are of the belief that it is this very attitude is what has allowed the people to survive, if not prosper, in the aftermath of the Empire. It is a dangerous new world but this attitude has brought with it a hardiness that served the people of the coast well.
Magic and Learning
As a mage, Rialto was keen to promote scholarly learning and responsible use of the arcane arts within his new empire. In some towns, schools or arcane academies were built. Institutions that had been used to teach dark arts were reinstated. Sadly this initiative did not bring about a renaissance of arcane use and discovery. In truth most people were too busy simply adjusting to their new free lives to consider sending their children to such a school! Perhaps it just seemed too similar to the old military schools. Maybe Rialto had just forgotten that it takes a truly special individual to truly master the arcane arts and that most simply do not have the aptitude for such things. Whatever the reason, the schools never really took off and many shut down within a few years. Some did survive, however, or had existed previously. And whilst arcane learning is not common it is well respected. Most people are pleased to see a wizard.
However, the attitude that magic is a scholarly exercise has had a profound effect on the view of less studious followers of the arcane, particularly bards and sorcerers. They are often viewed as poor initiations of wizards, seen as being unreliable, or even dangerous. In some more superstitious villages such a caster might be driven out, for fear of him suddenly and unexpectedly causing some destruction or comic transmutation. (Although, in fairness, in the case of chaos sorcerers this might not be entirely unjustified!)