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The Whale Islands

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The island nation of the Whale Islands has always been somewhat apart from the rest of the known world. The islanders – calling themselves the Ardyn (“true people”) never were really a part of the magocratic system, and some of the more traumatic events of the wizard rule – the pogroms against the clergy, or the massive use of vivisectionist magic for entertainment purposes - never took place on the islands.

For more than 3000 years, the Whale Islands are governed by the dynasty of the Gurudu, the Divine Mandate. Even though no member of the Gurudu was ever able to cast even the most simple spell, the dynasty is seen as directly supported by the gods, and the very thought of raising a hand against them is seen as terrible sacrilege. Indeed, the Gurudu are a dynasty of daimonids, and can claim to be the descendants of the Heavens, but despite this ancestry and the high regard of the Gurudu, they do not rule the islands outside of the palace city of Phri Val itself. Instead, the islands are ruled by powerful clans, who are officially all subjects to the Gurudu, but in reality, are highly independent and wage nigh endless skirmishes and intrigues against each other. Remarkably, these wars are so ritualized and coordinated around a standardized protocol, that the islands are prospering despite the nigh constant state of war. At-tacks against the civil population are heavily shunned upon, battles are pretty much prear-ranged meetings on neutral grounds, and more often than not, only small token forces of the different clans fight against each other instead of the whole armies.

Unlike to the development on the mainland, the wizards were never separated from their main clans and remained a part of their overall social structure, so that the feudal social order on the Whale Islands did not change, neither during the rise of the magocracy nor during its collapse. Likewise, there never was a purge of the clergy and like their arcane counterparts, priests of the imperial cult – the state religion of the Whale Islands that worship the Celestial Body and the Gurudu as their direct representatives – remained a part of the overall clannish structure of the Whale Islander society. The Whale Islands are more dominated by religion than mostother region in Gondal, and due to the often highly ritualized customs and gestures, the cult of the Celestial Body is a part of everyday life. Whale Islanders use small prayers almost all the time, and most activities, especially in crafting, are accompanied by a specific, fitting prayer or hymn to the gods and the Gurudu. The priests of the imperial cult are a common sight, but sonce they are still members of their clans first and priests only secondarily, their role is often somewhat difficult. Priests are not allowed to participate in warfare among the clans, and so act as harriers and heralds of their clans.

The life on the Whale islands is almost completely focused on the sea. Fishing – and obviously, whaling – is the most important source of nourishment on the islands, even though they also grow rice and sorghum. All noteworthy settlements on the islands – with the sole exception of the palace of Phri Val itself - are built on the coast, and the Ardyn can easily boast to be the most proficient sailors and navigators in the known world. But apart from the sea, the islands are frugal and offer only little natural resources, which explains the other, very unfortunate activities of the clans of the Whale islands: Piracy. Most inhabitants of the mainland continent only come in contact with the Whale Islanders when one of the clans sends out a warband for plundering the coasts.

Effectively, piracy is only a combination of the two things the Ardyn know best: fighting and sailing. The large war catamarans from the Ardyn are a feared appearance almost everywhere in the South, and they like to plunder the coastal areas, in the knowledge that there is no match to their naval power anywhere. The highly standardized rules of warfare the Ardyn use to keep their internal conflicts as unbloody as possible are never used when fighting against outsiders, and in this case, the Ardyn can be outright cruel and merciless. They don’t take slaves, but that only means that they don’t take prisoners, either, with one exception – Daimonids and those who appear to be "touched by the heavens" are captured and brought to Phri Val. If possible, daimonids are assimilated into the Gurudu to avoid inbreeding or, even worse, the loss of the Divine Heritage. In the last years, the pirate attacks of Whale Island raiders have more and more focused on areas where the population of daimonids is unusually high, and it seems that the capture of new breeding material has become a more important priority for the Gurudu than before.

The people of the Whale Islands have a dark skin, curly dark hair, and are among the tallest of all human people. They are also easy to recognize by the amount of tattoos they apply to their skins and which show their clan affiliation and social status. Respected Ardyn clansmen are covered with the ornamental tattoos from their shaven head to their feet, and the Gurudu are sometimes even tattooed on the soles of their feet and their genitalia.
The only non-humans that live on the Whale Islands in significant numbers are a few ottermen colonies which are generally tolerated by the Ardyn, since the Gurudu proclaimed that they were “funny jesters and harbingers of the sea itself”. Apart from that, the ottermen are mostly left alone by the clans, as long as they themselves keep to themselves, but sometimes, the otter are recruited as boatsmen or pilots for larger ships.

Since most Ardyn outsiders ever see are the warriors on a raid, these picture has formed the general image of the islands. Unlike almost all other maritime soldiers, Ardyn warriors do wear heavy armor, most often breast plates or scalemail made out of bronze or brass. Unlike most mainlanders, The warriors of the Whale Islands rarely use shields and prefer two-handed weapons, especially long spears similar to the harpoons used for whaling. Officers and wealthy warriors also bear curved swords in all sizes, but prefer those who can be wielded with one and both hands. Archery is mostly unknown, but many Ardyn warriors are expert spear throwers. Whale Islander tactics against outsiders are almost solely based on fast am-bushes and night attacks. While most Ardyn are formidable warriors on their own, they are usually not that effective as a complete army and prefer individual combat to organized battle lines.

 

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Comments

Real-world contact-point

For the various fantasy kingdoms I've imagined up, I like to have a real-world touch-point. For the Whale Islands, and the focus on fishing and fight as ways of life, I'm thinking Maori, though with obvious changes in things like climate and having access to metal.

Also, I am totally going to write up Ottermen.