|Common Names||Street Witches, Sanguine Lovers, Silvermen|
|Social Classes||Farmers, Artisans, Laborers, Barons|
Ânian lands are often considered a cursed province among The South Dukelands, rife with tragedy and horror stories to where even the warmongering Szabadok steer clear of Ânian lands. Despite their land’s many dangers, the Ânia that populate the area continued to persevere in their way of life in their rural communities. Once the descendants of Vladno outcasts who had objected to the Culture’s rigid conservative practices, they found themselves besieged by Szabadok raiders. Guided by the malicious nature of the Duke and Duchess of Ânian lands who were members of the Order of the Black Dragon, they embraced dark methods to defeat their enemy. Through this overwhelming brutality and the secret recruitment of Vampires, the Duke and Duchess eventually helped the Order succeed in their mission against the heathen Szabadok. However, the removal of the Szabadok only resulted in the pair dying, allowing clans of Vampires and Cahal to emerge across their lands, and then weave themselves into the threads of Ânian society. Though the House of Balaur no longer rules the territory, Vampires and Cahal continue to terrorize the populace while other regional administrators and nobles are plagued with corruption.
Ânia Culture sees its origins in the Vladno people not of Etosil, but instead of Volgaria, the Lordship found in Regalia’s northeast. Here, the Vladno arrived shortly after the Skagger Wars, helping mop up Skagger forces in the region and also gaining a great tract of territory to call their own. Thanks to their military acumen, Regalia allowed them to stay, and over time, Vladno settlers trickled into what is now The South Dukelands, a region held by fractious Regalia-aligned nobles. But one group was particularly harshly kicked out of the region and forced south. Living near the Velheim and coming into contact with other, similarly egalitarian Northland Cultures, some Vladno began to question the harsh gender dichotomy of their society. For this, they were kicked south, and entered into the Dukelands, into the region now known as Ânian lands. Over time, they came into contact with Etosians who had migrated to the area and formed The Hellatian States south of Ânian lands or integrating into growing melting pots in other nearby territories. During this time, the original Vladno of Ânian lands were changing. Unionist preachers worked to convert the population, and they ended up leaning far more toward Dogmatic Unionism beliefs than those of Etosian Unionism of their neighbors. Furthermore, the beliefs of those preachers carried great weight and slowly, the harsh Vladno nature was molded into something more open and accepting. This was also helped by the Vladno absorbing the practices and society of the local Byala group, whose lands they often ruled or oversaw. As a result of this extensive combination, these Byala also changed, and both worked together into the creation of the Ânia. But just as the beginning stages of this new worldview were beginning, they were being threatened with destruction.
To the south of Ânian lands, where before there had been wildland populated by rural people, there came the Szabadok from Etosil. Somehow transported away from their homeland to the safety of ripe new lands to plunder, they landed around 260 AC and promptly swallowed up miles of open territory. They then proceeded to conquer and crush those in their way, absorbing several baronies and border regions of nearby duchies much to the shock of the local populations, and also pushing deep south through territory of both the Byala and the Ânia. Chaos erupted, and unspoken warfare was the way of the world. Ânian lands suffered terribly, and old Vladno ways seemed on the brink of emerging once again as a way for the people to properly defend themselves. Instead, the local nobility turned to the one border region that the Szabadok had avoided out of superstitious fear, ruled by a family soon to go down in infamy: the Balaurs. Even today, it is not known where they came from and given what came later, some would claim them as survivors of the Great Vampire Wars, or perhaps the children of The Pale Whisper himself. Regardless of the truth, the charismatic but ruthless Drogi and Elisabeta Balaur united with their fellow nobles and others in the area to form the Order of the Black Dragon. A political union meant to put an end to the terror and horror of the Szabadok heathens once and for all. For the next decade, they engaged in tactics few military manuals would even consider suggesting today, for the Balaurs combined some of the most brutal punishments for heathens from Unionism with new ideas and advances in technology since the ancient times those methods were used. The result was the Szabadok fleeing in terror from Ânia and turning instead to other lands less able to stomach or put into effect the horrific methods of the brutal duo. With the mission of the Order of the Black Dragon essentially fulfilled and riding high on popularity with the people, they made themselves the official Duke and Duchess of Ânian lands. What followed though was a shocking reign of horror and blood. While the land was utterly free of crime, it was instead wracked with fear and prayers for kindness from the savage leaders of the Duchy.
The pair were seemingly emotionally unstable, and in their travels across the land to help ensure loyalty, they inflicted random acts of terror or horror against citizens for even the slightest errors or perceived errors. The local leaders, who often tried to speak out against this, were culled, as was the Unionist clergy (though a large number also simply fled in fear). However, ironically, it was with the official inclusion of the Szabadok into the Regalian Empire in 283 AC that signaled their end. While inside of the Duchy, the population was filled with fear, outside Vladno, Etosian and Regalian elements all had one objective now that defense from the Szabadok was no longer so urgent a matter, and that was to eliminate the Balaurs. Many tales are told of how the deed was done, but in the end, they were declared both dead and to have been Vampires in 285 AC with the title of Duke passed on to another. But, to the shock of all, it seemed as though the two had actually been the only force of stability in the region. Reports of Vampires exploded across Rumvalia, followed by a new wave of reports indicating the arrival of Cahal, and soon, the Ânia were left with a dark and brooding land filled with unearthly creatures in a war that frequently spilled out into public view. The Ânia, throughout all of that chaos and perhaps because of it, became a unique people in Aloria and one filled with contradictions. Ever since, they have gone on trying to live their lives as much as possible, isolated from many due to their beliefs, their geography, and status as a haven of Arcane Afflictions.
Language and Dialects
Ânian Dialect, simply known as Ânnore, is fairly homogeneous and never saw much change throughout the Ânian countryside, resulting in the language remaining understandable regardless of where one lives in Ânian lands. While written in the same Palyeva script as the Vladno language, the Ânian Dialect also shares traces of both its Mirnoye origins and some multitude of cultures brought by the Dogmatic Unionists that once converted Ânian lands
Ânian names have many similarities to Etosian or Vladno names but have been altered due to translation in the Ânian language. While names follow the traditional first-middle-last model of other Ailor Cultures, male Ânian names often end with a consonant or the letter ‘i’ with a few exceptions, and the middle name for both genders is always the first name of one of their parents. For example, an Ânian named Andrei Genov had a father named Georgi, meaning the full name would be Andrei Georgi Genov. The following list is a compilation of common names in Ânian Culture:
Order and law are a strange company in Ânian land, with the people there having a very complex idea of the definition of justice. Most of the local Ânian authorities are notoriously corrupt and are either too afraid or uncaring to actively deal with the Vampire menace in the Duchy, leading to the dissolution of trust for the government to help the Ânian people. Despite Ânian lands being among the leading exporters of Silver in the Regalian Empire, the regional corruption drives down the ducal economy and prevents the upkeep of competent or trained law enforcement. As a result, Ânians often resort to vigilante or mob justice to keep themselves safe, regardless of the methods. Strangely enough, many Ânians reminisce of the days when House Balaur ruled Rumvalia, often commenting that the order imposed by their sheer brutality “allowed a man to leave a bag of Regals in the middle of the street and never fear for it being stolen.”
Lifestyle and Customs
Ânian families tend to be casual and free to the point where family life is far less organized in structure than their neighbor cultures. Parent dynamics often reflect the egalitarian nature of the Ânians in that either the mother or father can be responsible for watching and taking care of children without being considered deviant or shameful. Parents may also have open relationships that are sometimes even considered part of the family, while Ânian nobles tend to be much less ashamed about consorts. Also much to the disapproval of the neighboring Etosians and Wirtem, homosexuality faces almost no stigma in Ânian lands Which is among the few places to have legalized same-sex relationships and marriage long before Cedromar’s Imperial decree on the matter. Most unusual of all, however, is that Vampire Brood children are noticeably common in Ânian lands though don’t face much social harassment beyond the occasional rumors or townsfolk being wary of their presence.
Ânia are among the most egalitarian cultures in the Archipelago, almost famed for their complete gender equality as opposed to their strictly patriarchal Vladno cousins. Women are accepted in all roles of society with the same consideration as men, being allowed to own property, join the military, and even lead Ânian households without any problem. More conservative neighboring or related cultures, such as the Vladno and Wirtem, have accused Ânian men of being weak-willed in allowing women to have the same rights as men, considering them hardly better than the Ithanians.
Religion is complicated for the Ânians, being unique in that they’re technically Dogmatic where their sister cultures follow Etosian Unionism, though most Ânians are secular and barely even pay lip service to the Dogmatic priesthood to begin with. The historical brutality and constant state of deterioration seen in Ânian lands have resulted in the majority of the Ânian population becoming more cynical, paralleling the Daendroque in their near-complete lack of pious obligations. Ironically, temples and cloisters are densely packed across Ânian lands at much higher rates than even neighboring regions, though many of these have suffered decay due to a number of factors such as systematic corruption and economic downturn in the region.
The abnormally high concentration of Vampires and Cahal in Ânian lands tends to attract the attention of Regalian inquisitions and Celate officials, groups who have blamed degeneracy and the lack of faith among the Ânians for many of their region’s problems. Despite their efforts to cleanse the region of these curses, most of these actions are met with apathy at best and annoyed ingratitude at worst by the Ânians who are on the edge of cutting ties with their faith. However, Ânians are highly superstitious despite their low rates of religious belief, taking to practices of astrology or fortune-telling to foresee their futures. Mystics and self-proclaimed psychics have seen a boom in popularity over the past few decades, often claiming to have the answers to life that can’t be provided by Unionism, much to the displeasure of the faith. Furthermore, some Ânians may partake in the occult practices condemned by the faith, leading them to form "witches covens" and partake in supernatural rituals. Though most of these covens have little to no actual magical power, rumors and legends are abound about those who truly draw their arcane energy from the Void itself...
Literature and Folklore
Under the constant threat of Vampires, Cahal, and corrupt bureaucrats, Ânians see the world as an apathetic place that’s turned its back on them. Where they once relied on Unionism and various holy orders to protect them from the Szabadok stampedes that once constantly razed Ânian villages, their faith has eroded over the years and led to a collective mistrust of their superiors. Almost all Ânians are aware of the corrupt nature of their local government, though reactions to such differ based on generations. While older Ânians are focused on iron-fisted order and rule of law, looking back nostalgically on the days when the Balaur Duke and Duchess made crime and corruption near non-existent, younger Ânians are much more prone to valuing individual freedom and rebellion against a higher authority that only seeks self-gain.
Ânian Culture is famous for its spooky stories of ghosts and monsters that prowl the countryside and hunt for the souls of innocents at night, likely stemming from the density of Cahal and Sanguine in Ânian lands In the same vein, these Ânian folk stories are believed to be the origin for many of the misconceptions and urban myths surrounding the blood curses and monsters of Aloria, such as Sanguine being harmed by sunlight or Silver being a strong weapon against Cahal. The latter is thought to have originated from the high quantities of Silver in Ânian lands being used as the main source of weaponry against the Cahal plague, resulting in misconceptions about its effectiveness.
Ânian art tends to come off as abstract and less “desirable” than traditional art found elsewhere, forgoing painting or drawing in favor of folk art such as local pottery and puppetry. The abundance of clay found in the region allows for elaborate pots to be taken as souvenirs whenever one decides to visit Ânian lands. Ânians are also skilled puppet-makers, dressing dolls in traditional Ânian clothing that usually come off as quirky and quaint rather than creepy. These dolls are often used in streetside shows and traditional puppet theatre, portraying folk stories or ancient legends of Ânian lands Despite the rustic feeling one experiences from common Ânian art, the culture is most notable for Silver making and its use in their daily life. Houses in villages next to one of many Silver mines can be found with exquisite utensils, plates, and cups made of silver that seem out of place with a population known for their much lower standard of living. Ânians are often hired as silversmiths in aristocratic and noble courts, providing beautiful jewelry, candlesticks, and silverware for their patrons.
Ânian clothing and fashion is intricate yet modest compared to the rest of the culture, with beautiful outfits for both men and women. Black vests with patterns of red, green, and white are universally common, though male outfits complement these vests with white pants, baggy tunic shirts, and black boots while women wear an embroidered blouse and multi-layered skirts. Ânian women also usually wear a headscarf or other simple covering as part of casual wear, though more traditional outfits in cultural events can see these headscarves replaced with a headband embroidered with flowers and lace ribbon. Some rural areas may forgo lace or ribbon with fur, though Ânian dress is overall meant to protect from colder climates.
While smaller villages consist of simple stone huts with straw and thatch roofs, the more populated towns are where Ânian architecture shines. Ceilings and chimneys are often the most decorative pieces of a house, with the former intricately carved usually based on the owner’s social class while the latter has a decorative cone or unique designs meant to show off any wealth. The ground floor is often used as a workshop or barn rather than a living space, resulting in the second floor of a Ânian home always being larger than the first in order to accommodate as where a family cooks and sleeps. Castles and manors in Ânian lands are well known making use of a modified Calemdom architectural style brought by the Unionist knights once stationed in the Duchy, with these Calemdom castles usually being associated with the grim Vampire clans that now populate them. A large number of cloisters and temples also make use of the style and are similarly often large and poorly maintained.
Food in Ânian lands complements its wide blend of cultural influences from across the Archipelago, usually designated as the ideal comfort food by foreigners eating their cuisine. Ânians have a large variety of soups, ranging from Tripe Soup made with generous quantities of salt, vinegar, and pork legs and possessing a strong velvety flavor, to Tarator known as a yogurt-based soup made with cucumbers, garlic, and walnuts. There are also several pork-based meals such Chigiri, which are pork meatballs inlaid with spices and wrapped in pig stomach, and simple Mici sausages served with bread and mustard.
With the state of things in Ânian land, Ânians have become masters of low-budget and streetside entertainment that provides comfort for others. Puppeteers are highly common for their roadside shows and interesting designs of dolls and puppetry that they will sometimes give to children to play with. Common street performers and stuntmen can also hold strange and risky shows where they undertake seemingly life-threatening endeavors to keep their crowds in suspense.
Many Ânian symbols are inspired by the days of the Sanguine Dukes of House Balaur, combined with the superstition prevalent in Ânian lands. Bats and wolves are common motifs for Ânian imagery, reminders of the Vampires and Cahal who terrorize the rural countryside, though also serving as a symbol of Ânian perseverance and utilization of fear against their enemies. Many Ânian families also use various color combinations of either black-red-green or red-yellow-white, the former more present among the rural communities or agricultural families while the latter is symbolic of urban houses and the nobility. Additionally, while most would expect them to shun it, the Ânia also make use of a stylized black Dragon as a symbol on their flags in remembrance of the Order of the Black Dragon which helped protect them from certain doom at the hands of the Szabadok.
- A prominent Vampire hunter once promised to slay the infamous Duke and Duchess Balaur of Ânian lands and free the Ânian people from their terror, setting out with a whip he claimed could kill creatures of the Void. While he was never seen again, his descendants have carried on his Sanguine-hunting legacy to this day, fighting Vampires and Cahal alike.
- Bureaucracy and local government in Ânian lands are so ineffective at efficiency or function that local Ânians often joke about preferring Vampires over tax collectors, declaring both to be vicious bloodsuckers but that at least the Sanguine are more useful in regards to keeping Ânian lands safe.
- Drogi Balaur’s original name was Mihail, but he changed it to Drogi in recognition of his nickname (Drogi) after the success of the Order of the Black Dragon.
- Ânian dagger-throwing acts are highly skilled, as are their axe throwers. This largely has to do with their society seeking to deal with threats from a distance, and doing extensive damage while doing it versus arrows, which are seen as weapons of the Szabadok.