"If you see two or more ash born in a room, something is going on. Work projects, conspiracy, war. Its a rare sight to find one of them that isn't busy or looking something to do. Good or ill, a pack of greyskin are always an omen." -Traveler's guide, people of Soi-The People of Ash are an ethnic group of Soi that inhabit the Ashed city states in the Midlands. They are considered a hardy industrial people that value simple, functional, often brutalistic craftsmanship on an industrial scale.
Every Ashed strives to find excellence in their chosen field, often found in their adolescence. Finding a trade that one both enjoys and excels at is akin to spiritual enlightenment and finding one's place in the world, often called "finding one's shape".
"Hearing the old tales, the ash born used to be an accepting, leisurely people. They had no thoughts for barriers or vigilance against others. The cities now sound of the constant ringing of metal and smell of acrid smoke, the constant smell of wood dust and sound of steel on tree trunks, rattling of wheels carrying carloads of goods. Seeing their high walls of stone and iron, and the chilling silence of their mercenaries, I wonder what it is that changed them so." (Merchant's journal, Second age)The Ashed were a scattered peoples that stretched far and wide over the Middle Lakelands with sparse populations that were primarily agrarian in nature. During the Dawn era they spent their days leisurely fishing and hunting in the lakes and forests of the area. Excesses of driftwood in the north and forests made the area renown for wood carpentry as the peoples of the areas embraced the craft.
Starting in the First age barbarian incursions began expanding into the area, wiping out entire townships, causing the locals to begin clustering their centers of civilization together. This slowed the once abundant flow of natural resources, the Ashed struck a deal with traders in order to continue to feed themselves, their craftsmanship would be sold as traders would bring the materials to them, and they began branching from wood to other materials.
A Rakkaan migration began a terrible incursion into the lands, overrunning many of the proto-cities they came across, causing the populations to flee in mobile military camps. Under their leadership, the Ashed congregated these camps onto naturally defensible positions, the merchants shifted the trade routs to these new camps, and they began the long slow process of building high stone walls. As their civilization grew, they expanded their walls in order to not leave themselves vulnerable.
The people of Ash tend to be half a head shorter than most peoples of Soi, strongly built with sharp features, black hair and eyes. Their skin tone tends to have little pigment, giving them a greyish complexion. Northern Ashed are dark of complexion, where southern Ashed tend to be pale.
Ashed tend to wear dark clothing of greys, blacks, and blues. Other colors exist but are almost always dark and muted. This originates from the tendency of Ashed to work and live in industrial areas, and their cultural aversion to high maintenance items. Men and women often dress nearly identically, the greatest difference being the tailoring due to different body shapes.
Clothing items tend to be closely tailored to the bodies of the wearer, with loose clothing bound to the body with belts. Boots, sleeveless vests, and pants is the most common clothing ensemble for Ashed working class, with the wealthy wearing similar daily garments of better make or fit. Long coats are often worn during colder months. Due to the their minimalist culture, even wealthy Ashed rarely have an extended wardrobes, often having a few personal items of clothing.
Jewelry aside from one or two simple rings or a single necklace are frowned upon as opulent displays of wealth are considered akin to public indecency, Jewelry rarely contains precious stones, but are more often made of precious metals with complex inscribed patterns. Body modifications such as piercings are nonexistent among the Ashed, tattoos being rare.
Public nudity while not encouraged due to the common hazards of walking bare around in a city is not frowned upon or illegal, during work breaks workers will often strip to swim in the artificial lakes within the cities green districts or in public bath houses.
All Ashed wear sashes of fine leather over their shoulder that is stamped with the mark of their trade and company of employment. Other proficiencies are marked onto this leather as they acquire skills and certifications in their life.
Status in the Ashed city states is determined by how competent one is at their job and how content one is with their life. Every job, if it has a market, is considered worthwhile, the better one is at what they do and the lack of stress or irritation with their profession.
Guild affiliation affects ones status. Guild status is determined by a handful of factors including income, quality of production, and the treatment of employees. Status of a guild can rise or fall depending on the actions of the guild master or work ethic and production quality of their employees. Should the status of a guild fall, the workers may choose to either stay and try to save the company or leave for better prospects. A guild head may choose to step down and take a lesser position and appoint a more competent replacement to salvage their status.
"Youth is the time for sampling what bounties the world of romance has. As fun as it may be, it is a great comfort when you find the ones you want to truly live with"While the Ashed generally have multiple poly amorous relationships in their youth, they tend to form lasting family units while having and raising children. These family units tend to involve 2-5 adult partners with the general distribution being 1.5 women to 1 man, however this ratio can fluctuate.
When having children, an Ashed breeding pair will agree to stop the ingestion of fertility inhibiting herbs and only see each other for a time. The families will generally all pitch in in raising said children, people involved in these families are not bound by law with the exception of direct bloodline parents being responsible for the upbringing of children sired.
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Daily life of an average citizen
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Religion "Everyone must find their purpose and place. You will know you have found it when you feel like you truly belong" (Ashed plumber talking about the World Engine) Despite their lack of religion, they do follow the philosophy of the world engine, which states that everything in the world serves one function or another, and is all equally important for existence to continue. A farmers purpose is to provide food, the crops exist to die or be harvested, the builder exists to build, the soldier exists to protect, and that the height of enlightenment is to find one's purpose, the greater contentment one feels in their existence, the greater the fit they are in their current position in the world.
The Ashed may refer to people being made of various materials such as stone, iron, or wood to describe their temperament or personality, and referring to people as different tools or simple machine parts to describe what they are proficient in. Even those made of dirt can still be used to grow crops.
In a perfect wold for the Ashed, no one would feel discontent with their position in life, nor would others seek to disrupt the lives of others, for all would be in balance working together, some errant pieces of the machine that seek to disrupt it must be removed.
The Ashed commonly follow the philosophy of Heart of Steel
"You never know if the Greyskins are going to offer you something delicious or horrifying" (Broken Kingdom knight on pilgrimage)
Common foods and consumables Ashed eat a varied diet suited to their long hours of consistent energy expenditure. The staples of the diet consist mostly of legumes, beans, nuts, acorns, farmed fish, potatoes and squashes. These food sources are farmed outside of the city walls. Stew or bisque paired with a solid side are common.
The most common forms of alcoholic beverages are ciders and mead made from from apple orchards.
The Ashed cultivate or import large amounts of smokable herbs that have varying affects on the body that are often taken on work breaks
Insects Ashed see no issue with eating the lower orders of food such as insects and arachnids. They find them incredibly practical solutions to spoiled food. Swarms of crickets are often kept in reserve so that spoiled food can be consumed by them, the crickets are then harvested and sold at market, often baked and salted for flavor.
There are few pest problems in Ashed city states due to the Ashed people eating them all.
Tak In times of famine or siege, the stored non perishable foodstuff "Tak" loaves are rationed to citizens of the cities. At any time, Ashed citizens are allowed to take Tak rations from the city vaults, the amount per day based on their current weight. Most citizens choose to eat anything other than Tak.
Tak is made out of dried and powdered meat, vegetables, insects, nuts, grains, compressed into bricks and sealed with edible glue. Tak will last for decades if not centuries if preserved and kept in dry spaces. The flavor is described as dry, chalky, and bland.
Some Ashed use Tak as a soup stock or flour additive to both improve the flavor of the tak and nutritional value of the meals it is added to.
Culture "You can always expect two things from the Ash born. They are nearly impossible to deter once given a task, and they don't care about any problem that doesn't affect them directly" (Unclaimed miner an apprentice after trying to make small talk with an Ashed steel merchant) Ashed culture is dual in nature, often referred to as "on or off the press". During working hours, Ashed are consummate professionals, focusing almost entirely on their task, completing them as quickly and efficiently as possible, interrupting them as they work is difficult and considered rude unless there is an urgent matter at hand. During their "Off the press" time, they are relaxed and sociable, still valuing quiet even in large groups.
Cultural prominence is gained by proficiency at one's job. Every job is considered equally important as to the functioning of a society and city so long as there is a demand for it. As even luxury items bring joy and relieve stress which allows people to function properly.
The Ashed raise children in pairs of parents, however there is no official legally binding contract for the two parents. When Ashed choose to have children it is often an informal agreement between the two that they will have and raise their offspring together, commonly living together for a few months or years before making the decision. Due to the easy availability and lack of stigma associated with birth control few unwanted children are born. Unwanted children are refers to as "Spills" and are the responsibility of both parents to take care of.
The Ashed value cleanliness and durability in their living spaces above other attributes
Overt or purposeless displays of wealth or hoarding wealth is considered indecent
Being loud without purpose is considered indecent
The Ashed have no taboos considering nudity
The only sexual taboos Ashed have involved unwilling participants or activity between children and adults
Clothing fashion in the Ashed emphasizes durability and craftsmanship
Ashed often dress in muted colors in blue and grey
Carrying weapons is common, however it is suspicious to wear armor unless one is a guard or active mercenary
The Ashed are not a superstitious people, preferring to look for simple explanations based on evidence
Smoke herbs The Ashed culture includes the consumption of smokable plants that are either smoked through pipes or wrapped in the dried leaves of said herbs. These herbs vary greatly in many different blends. They include, stimulants, depressants, and herbs that simply exist to give a pleasing scent to the air around them.
Domesticated creatures Giant Boar- such as their massive domesticated boars that serve as beasts of burden, food, and war mounts. They are intelligent animals that can eat nearly anything and have a stubbornness that rivals their owners. These specially bred boar can reach size and weight between 800-1400 pounds and are known to have a wide range of temperaments and personality traits.
Pangolins -Pangolins are one of the few creatures the Ashed keep as dedicated pets. Pangolins are small armored creatures the size of dogs and subsist mainly on insects.
Book and card Culture Ashed typically have demanding jobs that keep them physically active for the majority of work days, in their leisure time, though many Ashed are robust and recover quickly, others may take their time off the press to enjoy more sedentary activities. Novels, board games and card games such as MilCard are often imported to feed this demand.
Suicides "Life isn't for everyone, some cannot handle it and some need guidance. Our first priority is healing, but If we cannot heal the mind we can at least ease their suffering"
The first option is to "Go into the wall" or to give themselves to the "Carvers" the Ashed that are responsible for recycling the dead. The carvers ensure they die a painless and peaceful death. Every bit of them is recycled and used for a purpose. Their bone often turned to lime to be used in cement, and the carbon from their bone going into steel building supports, thus they become a part of the city.
The second option is to become a "Death seeker" for the Ashed mercenary guilds. The mercenary guilds give them relatively light scale armor, a pair of swords, a vial of "Berserker drink" which is a powerful stimulant similar to Goran "Divinity" and a vial of fast acting poison in case of capture. They are sent on suicide missions and their names and mission recorded in the "Book of Sacrifice" kept by each mercenary guild.
Relation to the Immortals "We know the legends better than most, which is why we don't think of them in our day to day lives" (Ashed factory worker) It is often said that due to their relations with the 14th councilmember, their people occasionally suffer from the madness of paranoia and insomnia.