|Common Names||Pig-Pushers, Calemberg Pincushions, Noise-makers|
|Social Classes||Warrior, Farmer, Hunter, Shaman, Merchant, Noble|
|Major Cities||Wiaraseta, Zlotoseta|
A Culture forged by the raids from Greater Calemberg, and steeled by their strange pantheon religion, Wiaraja, these militant people have a culture unlike any other and an obsession for their ancestral origins. The Zvorun are a culture of staunch conservatives from the Regalian Archipelago who believe in revering ancestors, the Duzyviriesi and Goraviriesi, and carving and painting their history wherever they can. The Zvorun have invented many musical devices to orally record and perform their history, such as the Klakuk that is the centerpiece of any true Zvorun family. Though they have been ravaged by many raids, they now stand proudly in the sunlight after the Regalian Empire strode in and rescued them - even creating an entire holiday to celebrate that day.
The Zvorun Culture has uncertain roots, even to those who lived around them for centuries. In their own creation mythology, the Tree of Eternity rose and grew five branches, each cradling a world within its great branch. The Zvorun were born in Zycie, their name for the Regalian Archipelago, and the Ailor were then uplifted by their gods. Most scholars today believe though, the Zvorun were born of an isolated group of Ailor who simply developed uniquely in comparison to the surrounding world. They were kept safe and isolated in the river valleys that ran through the core of their lands until their population increased to a point that led to them spilling out and into contact with the outside world. By 200 BC, they were mentioned in the records of the Wirtemcaller Kingdom to the south, but the nation saw them unkindly. They believed them to be trespassers on holy land given to the Wirtem by deities of the hunt, and thus began the next 250 years of Zvorun life. The Wirtemcaller lords in the north were used to dealing with raiders, but for once they became the raiders. They expanded fortifications into lands part of modern Zavoria and set about attempts to conquer the local population. Unfortunately for them, the Zvorun proved highly resourceful at escaping. But then they were betrayed in 50 BC. One of their own, whose name has been struck from the record and is solely referred to as The Accursed, gave critical information to the Wirtemcaller warriors and they found many hiding places of the Zvorun people. In the aftermath, The Accursed was named “High Duke” of Zavoria and the warriors who aided him were given tracts of land in the region. In the modern-day, these warriors are called the Herebrand Knights (though the concept of knighthood didn’t exist until over a century later).
Then began the Poniżenie, or “Belittlement” when the Zvorun were made the servants of the High Duke and the Herebrand Knights. However, it was during this time that the Zvorun perhaps solidified the most as a society and any sort of disunity died. United against the outside invaders, they waited for three decades until the death of The Accursed to rise up. Led by a religiously enlightened ruler, later dubbed Great King Kazimir, the Wirtemcaller forces were destroyed and forced back to their original fortresses from 200 years ago. But Kazimir pushed further, and the Zvorun proclaimed an Anointed War upon the south, and powerful Niebesis Raiders clashed against Wirtemcaller cavalry and border fortresses. Eventually, the Zvorun were forced into retreat and they returned to their native territory but the Wirtemcallers could be argued to have ultimately lost despite this apparent victory. The conflict engaged in by the Zvorun was little more than an attempt to punish the Wirtem people, and they succeeded. By 50 AC, half the northern frontier had been abandoned by civilians, fearing assaults from the Zvorun. It was at this time that both groups were beset upon by a long-ignored people: the Velheim.
The Skagger Horde began arriving in 50 AC and quickly overtook the existing population, groups of Velheim within Drixagh but also the Fridurfolk and Tarkkin people found there. However, when they came into contact with the Zvorun, they steered around their territory or kept to the major waterways. They often spoke of the land as cursed and filled with dark gods, a possible reference to the rather aggressive posture the Zvorun possessed against outsiders. Still, for much of the next century, the Skagger Horde raided Zvorun land for slaves and supplies. At the same time, the Zvorun also had to beat back the occasional attempt by the Wirtemcallers to take the initiative against the growing threats of the north, of which the Zvorun were but a small part. But then the Wirtemcaller Kingdom collapsed, and the Skagger Horde surged south. The Zvorun watched them go, content to see the nation that had so long tortured them be apparently destroyed. They retreated to their expansive borders, and continued to fend off the Skagger Horde, and remained unaware of what was happening in the south. Suddenly, there was chaos. First, thousands of Horde-members fled north through and around their territory, and the Zvorun came face to face with a new foe: the Regalian Empire. Unfortunately for all parties, the Wirtemcaller people, now known as Calembergers, falsely advised the Regalian Military. They said that the Zvorun were just another part of the Skagger Horde, as they were just as savage and warlike with similarly strange gods. The Unionist Regalians were inclined to agree and engaged a brief but devastating campaign. Southern Zvorun lands were ravaged, and they fled in droves back to their more traditional territory in the north and northeast. A continuance of the war was averted when captured Zvorun combatants but also civilians finally demonstrated that they were not Velheim to the Regalians. The Empire thus made a deal with the Zvorun, whereupon they kept all the territory they possessed currently, but those areas of the south currently occupied by the Regalian Empire needed to secede to the new Lordship of Greater Calemberg.
The Zvorun agreed, but their troubles didn’t stop there. Barely a few weeks after the treaty had been signed did there come a new invasion. Vladno, in large numbers, had arrived in the Regalian Archipelago to “aid the Empire.” The Zvorun, run ragged from fleeing the Regalians could barely mount a defense in their eastern lands and were sent tumbling back into the core of their territory, where they had originally emerged from. The newly formed Volgaria then asserted itself, and the Zvorun were again forced to accept their losses of territory. Yet there came still more bad news, from Greater Calemberg came a crusading group of knights. The Herebrand Holy Order, the name of the ancient order of “knights” taken up by the successors of the Wirtemcaller Kingdom and largely by ancestors of the original Herebrands. The Holy Order proved to be a successor not just in name, but also in territorial ambition. Settled just at the border of Zavoria, they constantly raided into local territory on the smallest pretenses, engaging in “disciplinary” actions against the “faithless” population and expanding their territory slowly over the next several decades. The last expansion of their territory was in 250 AC, where the Holy Order finally reached too far into Zavoria and ended up having to retreat. Ever since then, the borders of Zavoria have remained stable, though its people are isolated. From the south, Greater Calemberg ignores cooperation with the Lordship, instead advocating for its absorption by Calemberg. To the east sits the Vladno of Volgaria, cold and always seeking new populations to enslave. Then there is the north, Drixagh, and the Velheim. While tensions between them and the Zvorun had long been cool, the Burning of the North showed the Zvorun just how much the world has changed in the last several decades and that the Velheim could perhaps no longer protect as they once might have.
However, in the final months of 307 AC, they joined with other northern peoples of Drixagh in warfare against New Regalians. In this conflict, the Herebrand Order was smashed and completely pushed from Zvorun land, and in the new year, the peace treaty made that condition permanent. Now separated from the New Regalians by Hadrian's Mountain Chain, the Zvorun are joyous if not spread thin, their long-awaited goals accomplished with help from those around them. However, the new lands they now control are open and rugged, and the Zvorun have new challenges ahead in reforging their ancient state so long lost to the annals of history.
Language and Dialects
Mēneric is the dialect spoken by the Zvorun people. It's a tongue with many harsh-sounding letters and strange pronunciations. Many of the people born with this tongue tend to dislike Common due to the different letters and its foreign nature - but those that do learn it have no qualms with its usage and adapt naturally into any Common speaking communities, albeit with their accents tending to linger.
Zvorun people have an ancient naming rite that is only ever used among the older population and goes according to this: A set of a first, middle, and last name. Typically children are named after nearby natural objects of their birth, a tradition developed by the Wiaraja faith. Like River (Rzeka), Bear (Niedweid), or even Cat (Kot). For males, they will also add -s or -is to the end of their name, for females, -a or -e. Middle name will always, without question, be the name of the birth father regardless of the gender of the child. Last names are a very confusing part for outsiders of the Zvorun region. Typically the main occupation of a family and the name of their ancestral founder are combined to create the name. This is to ensure everyone remembers where they came from and to honor their ancestors. Some examples below:
- Niedweids Kotis Rzekaerolnik (Rzekae-, the ancestor; -rolnik the occupation)
- Drzewoe Ziemniakis Piankaskupiec
- Piess Winois Trzonalowca
- Kwiate Drzewoe Szczelinakupiec
- Kabinas Bramas Kamienbudowniczy
- Kozae Jelenis Miastolider
- Gospodarstwois Przyjaciels Zegarekwartownik
However, due to the extremely long-winded nature of names to the point that they become almost entire sentences of their own - the Regalian government sought to change how the Zvorun performed naming rites. To prevent upsetting the already heavily fragile and volatile religious atmosphere they kept the original naming scheme of nearby natural objects but went to forego the involvement of the family career in the last name of a child. The clergy heavily opposed this but was quickly put down by the ruling noble class in order to more easily distinguish themselves from lower classes in namesake. The rather redundant scheme of adding additional letters to the end of a child's name was removed for simplicity’s sake. Finally, in a move to further gain feudal control in Zvorun the noble class passed a law that last names of royal bloodlines would end in a (-szlachetny) to keep themselves distant from the lower class but keep with sacred traditions in some aspect. The usage of a first, middle and last name is typically now only for official passports and nearly the entire young population of lower-class Zvorun only use their first name when socializing while the elite of Zvorun typically only ever use their last name as a show of status and wealth. Some examples below:
- Drzewo Ogrodzenies Waz
- Brud Trawas Chata
- Zloto Jedwabis Rudaszlachetny
- Snieg Piaseks Paproc
Zvorun was actually near completely lawless back in the ancient times. Much of how crimes were resolved was a duel to the death by the two parties, but these barbaric practices were outlawed and new laws were given when the Regalian Empire came to help civilize the nation. As a result, a rather simplistic judicial system was set into practice. Elders of a village were generally elected from the older aged citizens and appointed as judges of character and law. From these elected elders are also a higher judicial body called the "High Council of Elders" who overlook the national issues. They are usually elected every four years by a popular majority vote. Though none of these elders, in any capacity, are allowed to pass judgment on the breaking of holy Zvorun laws with these matters instead being handled by the priests and priestesses of the Wiarja faith.
- Murder, theft, and other changes to one's personal property are to be punished by standards set by the elder of the family. If no elder is present, the elder of the village will decide.
- A man and a woman must never make physical contact unless wed, and even then this must be done in the privacy of their own home.
- A commoner may not have more than (2) fields of crops, unless he is a serf - in which the amount of fields he operates is dictated by his lord.
- Destruction of a Klakuk is to be treated as harshly as serial killing. The high council of elders are the only ones allowed to deal with judicial trials of this nature due to the extreme importance of the Klakuk to all families and history.
- Foreigner families are disallowed from owning a Klakuk in any capacity whatsoever. Though the ruling bodies can not enforce this law outside their own lands, anybody of non-Zvorun heritage with a Klakuk is to be scorned or avoided.
- Pigs may not be pushed during a holiday.
- Any New Regalians who enter Zvorun lands are to be extensively searched for stolen property, illegal weaponry, or any fire-starting materials; furthermore, they are not allowed to own any property within Zvorun.
- No child born within Zvorun lands may be given a name after a career or occupation to prevent confusion further down the heritage line.
Though, these are simply examples of the many strange and simply outdated laws that hold true in the Zvorun lands. Still, laws created by the Zvorun themselves are few - and many simply just follow how Regalian laws work.
Lifestyle and Customs
Zvorun people tend to be highly conservative in terms of family. A singular mother and father taking care of their children, and a woman is expected to give as many children as she can. Though, this way of thinking has begun to decline after the Regalian Empire halted Calemberg raids on the people. Now, many young women are stubbornly refusing the ways of the old now that the survival of the Zvorun is no longer threatened like before. The idea of extended families within Zvorun is rather commonplace. Many, many families in the Zvorun culture are related - though usually not be any actual blood bonds. As the identity of the family ancestor can be similar for multiple families, and thus they believe themselves to be of the same heritage. Plenty of extended families live harmoniously with others and are welcomed easily into the fold. The same even extends for the nobility of the Zvorun who have been known to have commoner extended families that they believe is their duty assigned by the ancestor to look over and protect with their higher prestige. Though - few ever dare to mix blood wise with them.
Their culture is still based on pre-raid values and patriarchal, for instance: Women are expected to handle the household, raise the children, and practice the Kulka daily to remind everyone of their heritage. Though regular duties are admired, it is considered an extreme privilege to be wed to a woman who is able to operate a Klakuk in an advanced capacity. The better her musical abilities, the greater the honor. It is even known for a noble Zvorun male to wed a commoner woman if she of exceptional talent with a musical instrument. In the case of the men, they are typically seen riding horseback, farming on the fields, or practicing the religion if they are more scholarly focused. Though it is rather unheard of for a man to be practicing a Klakuk and seen as rather "girly" as they are expected to be more heavily focused on being able to provide for a family in a working capacity or be an exceptional cavalryman to ward away raiders.
All Zvorun holidays are based around their religious calendar and the celebration of the Regalian Empire in holding back the Calemberg raiders from their lands.
- Lielspacel: This celebration is marked on the first night of the 5th month. It celebrates the rise of the Duzyviriesi and their ascension to battle the Goraviriesi which the religion believes is the birth of civilization. It consists of lighting a huge bonfire, a freeform tournament amongst eligible men, and the crowning of the year's Duzy, an honorary title given usually locally to a man who has beaten all others in combat.
- Narodziny: Celebrated on the first sunrise of the new year, this is when it was believed the Goraviriesi were first born. Celebrations begin right at sunrise with the crowning of the youngest daughter and son and then the eldest member of the family. After these personal ceremonies, all families will attend a day-long cleansing, where both the youngest and oldest members of the community will be washed in the nearest source of fresh water.
- Glabejs: An extremely new holiday, since many pre-date even early Zvorun, it consists of all Zvorun people wearing purple in Imperial fashion to celebrate what they believe are their "saviors" since the religious heads dictated that the Regalians were sent by the gods to rescue them from Calemberg. The celebration takes place in April for a week that is different for each community.
Based on ancestral worship, the belief of Duzyviriesi and Goraviriesi, and devotion to keeping tradition are what make up the religion of the Zvorun - Wiaraja. The religion is an ancient one, and with the numerous pillages and heavy guarding of the original texts by religious figureheads. A rare few have an idea of the origins of the religion came from, and none know it for certain due to the damage of the original texts. The history and teachings are not lost to time, however, and many can summarize the origins through what is taught by the priests. The Tree of Eternity is an extremely important figure within the religion, and many sacred groves can be found nearby temples to the faith. These groves are believed to have a direct connection to the Tree of Eternity and are undeniably important to the faith. Wiaracilvek is the name for the figurehead of the Wiaraja faith and is the only one allowed to see the original texts. Strzecticiba are the hands of the Wiaracilvek and enforce his will upon the people, a combination of both guard and priest. Though the faith is interesting in that it is completely up to the people themselves to organize their ceremonies and faith, and have no local heads to organize such. It is the unofficial task of a village elder to assist others with practicing the faith.
- For more information on Wiaraja, click here
Literature and Folklore
Due to the highly volatile nature of the region with constant raids from New Regalians, much of Zvorun literature that has ever been made has either been seized and reproduced or simply destroyed. The few surviving original texts sitting within the few great walled cities are highly coveted and well-guarded by the Wiara. Since much of the Culture moved towards the musical arts, there are few well-known Zvorun scholars in the world. The Wiara write texts for and document the Wiaraja religion, and only the Wiara tend to know what is actually written in the texts of old. Zvorun literature is almost entirely composed of religious texts and there are few other texts within their possession.
The Zvorun have their philosophy birthed from their ancient religious views and the near-constant raids from the people in the past. They believe heavily in defending their heritage that was once almost constantly taken from them by the people south of them (currently New Regalians). Many of them feel an intense almost unbreakable pride in their ancestors and history both built by their ancestral worship religion and the fact that the scars of the raids in their past are still fresh in many of their minds. Many adopt a very stoic outlook on life that reflects the bitter climate of their homelands. Typically they're very hard to anger, unlike the stories of many of their more savage brethren and believe that a man who can't keep a cool head can barely be considered a man. Though they have a great range of emotions they enjoy keeping to themselves and reserving their more open side. They view other races as needing their assistance and believe that it is their duty to the Tree of Eternity to assist and help the other races thrive.
Much of the Zvorun folklore are of the ancient ancestors of their people, and the idea that some of them live on in the trees, the water, and the animals surrounding them. Though, this does not stop many of them from harvesting or hunting - as many of these are simply ancient tales spoken by old men around a village campfire. One of the many mythical creatures that exist in the Zvorun folklore is the "Smutek Jelen", which roughly translates to "Sadness Deer" in the Common tongue. This entity is believed to manifest in many of the forested areas of Zvorun to young hunters who have yet to marry, and the story goes that the deer will scare away all game from the man in order to get him to return home and marry. The actual authenticity of these claims are scarce, and could simply be an excuse for a terrible hunt - or to scare young men into marriage. Another more horrifying legend is that of "Sniezny Diabel" or "Snow Devil" in Common. It is believed that Sniezny wanders the harsher areas of Zvorun in search of young folk to steal and consume the flesh of. It is believed this could be a reference to the Wirtemcaller or Velheim people as a warning of the dangers of wandering carelessly.
Much of Zvorun art is not currently within their possession as much has been stolen or burned in Calemberg raids, and the debate for them to return what they've raided is still heavy in the air. To prevent the loss of other works of art, the Zvorun people have taken to painting on large and immovable objects instead of canvases or other easily looted items. This often takes the form of large and heavy rocks. Typically the art on these rocks portrays religious iconography or historical local events unless painted in a government building which will usually portray national events - like the Regalian liberation from Calemberg and some mythical folktales. It is said that the main Wiaraja temple in Wiaraseta has one of the most breathtaking sights in the world - with the entire roof, walls, and floors painted to extreme detail by many different highly skilled Zvorun painters. It portrays each pantheon icon of the Wiaraja faith and the Duzyviriesi and Goraviriesi icon heads touching hands at the center of the roof.
The usage of music within Zvorun culture is incredibly important. Typically used both recreationally and even for defensive usages. The Zvorun people have created many rather unique instruments in order to fulfill the turbulent lifestyle of its people. Due to the destructive nature of the Calemberg raids, most of Zvorun history is practiced orally through music or etched onto a family's Klakuk. Even religious practices have deep roots in the usage of musical instruments, those unique to the Zvorun are listed below.
- Lugaka: Zvorun herders will typically use this large horn-shaped instrument to call the livestock back to the farm after pasture. The sound of the Lugaka is similar to the piercing call of a deer with a trumpet undertone. In villages due to the herders living closer to the edge of town, they could spot incoming raids much better than anyone else. If spotted, they would quickly rush to a nearby well and begin blaring the Lugaka at full force to help it resonate loudly within the village in order to warn others of the impending raid.
- Klakuk: The Klakuk is the centerpiece of a Zvorun family. Due to the tendency of potentially losing many belongings and literature during a Calemberg raid, the Zvorun people adapted to keep their family histories and legacy alive, and thus the Klakuk was born. The material of choice for this instrument was always wood, but the quality varied widely depending on the family's wealth and class. Generally, the instrument was a large, thick plank of wood with 5 strings running the length. The plank could be a simple rectangle design while richer families have been known to have curved or even circular Klakuks. The common characteristic though is the etching of symbols into the Klakuk. These typically depicted the ancestors, legacy, and achievements of the family.
- Lielsprzyrz: This large, complicated instrument is rarely ever seen outside a Wiaraja temple. Typically used during a major religious ceremony or celebration this instrument is a complex version of the Klakuk only invented recently. A small wooden or iron handle is turned on the end of the instrument that rolls a line through the instrument through a strum to create a sound that can be altered by pressing small wooden pedals with the fingers on the base of the instrument. The largest version of this instrument resides within Wiaraseta and is operated by a two man crew.
The style of dress for both Zvorun men and women are rather similar in that both wear plain, simple spun clothings of white and beige with the odd tone of brown thrown in due to leather boots or shoes. But, there are key differences to note. Men tend to wear predominantly more furs around the collar, hat, and the ends of their clothing while women are not allowed to put any kind of fur in their clothing, as this is seen as far too masculine. Men will also wear a coat over the robes they wear. Meanwhile, women are simply expected to wear a long dress down to the feet to cover their bodies. They are also expected to wear a large collar ruff of flexible pleat to cover their necks, as Zvorun people believe a woman should be modest before all else. A phrase typically used to describe to a woman how she should dress goes: "If your ancestors could see you, would they smile?"
The buildings of Zvorun are rather simplistic on the outside but heavily decorated on the inside. Many of the cities actually have residences for blocks that look precisely the same on the outside but have insanely elaborate decorations on the inside. One of the biggest architectural wonders of them is the painting of the interior walls with different forms of art. Due to how raids use to steal the art they would hang up, the Zvorun stubbornly decided that the raiders could not steal the walls themselves - so they started just painting on those instead. This led to some of the most strange but beautiful works of art in the Zvorun capital buildings.
Sausage, wheat, and pork are practically the staples of a Zvorun diet. As pigs are the main livestock raised in Zvorun, they have learned to create an insane variety of dishes from this one main ingredient. Much of the spices and gamey meats are collected by hunters and typically added to the pork in a large grinding stone that feeds them all together to make a large sausage from all of it. There are even numerous competitions after the raids ended to see who can make the best Zvorun sausage. Though, sausage is not the only food in their lands. Another interesting recipe passed down by one woman to the next is the Pierogi. Due to the similarity in that dish to the Sihai dish of dumplings, some outsiders believe it somehow came from there. Though this is a complete myth and is well-known among ancient songs that it came from the previous ancient capital of Zvorun, Kijow. Though the city itself is in ruins, many believe the eating of this dish is a symbol of remembering their heritage from that once grand city.
Physical activity on the farm is not the end for many. Sports are an important facet of Zvorun people as well and a particularly popular sport is wrestling. Many young men will wrestle amongst each other to establish a hierarchy of dominance. Women are actively discouraged to engage in this kind of activity; however, many young maidens would flock around when they saw two men fighting because it is believed that the strongest have the blessing of the gods, and would make fine protectors of the home.
Due to an overwhelming majority of the Zvorun population being rural, many of their leisure activities are outside or based around livestock. One of the most universally popular things to do is gather around the town square after work to listen to the elders play their Klakuks and sing tales of yore. Though the ones that live within the city have taken to simply sitting near their hearth with their own family to gently play the Klakuk and sing tales of their ancestors' feats. Another interesting activity for many children of Zvorun is Swinsana or the act of pushing a pig over in the field. Though due to the size, they usually act within groups to perform the task. It is the mark of a Zvorun boy turning into a man when he can push a pig over on his own with no help.
Many symbols used to represent the Zvorun people come from the Zvorun religion of Wiaraja. Every god of the pantheon has a symbol dedicated to them which is then worn on a simple cord or beaded necklace around the neck of the Zvorun population. The imagery of wings, a hammer, a book or manuscript, a tree, or a dog is commonly used. As for the entire people, a stylized white predator bird on a thin-striped field colored red, blue and green repeated three times is the official sigil of Zavoria. It is said to represent the glorious savior that was Great King Kazimir coming to unite the land.
- There's a modern tale of a Calemberg noble using his retinue of men to steal an entire wall from the Zvorun capital city due to how taken aback he was by the artwork on it. He then supposedly dumped it into the sea.
- Some believe the ancient Zvorun rite of Narodziny had elders sacrificed in the temple and the young drink their blood, but many religious figures deny this profusely.