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Statistics & Foundation
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- 1. Essentials
- 2. Culture
- 3. Structure
- 4. Religion
- 5. Significant Families
- 6. History
- 7. Notes & References
Located in the blustery, landlocked country of what was Mongolia, Khurdan Salkhi is nestled in the steppes and home to roving, nomadic tribes.
Forests are sparse, and any human ruin left is reduced to rubble; any houses that remain have been reduced to blown-over foundations and stony outlines, overtaken once more by the grasses that dominate the fields and lend the feel of broad seas of green and wild, open skies. Territories expand far along the plain, luperci civilization dotting the landscape with semi-permanent structures, ever changing with a fickle climate.
Few human-made landmarks are left standing, and are seasonally maintained by the wolves of the steppe and owned individually by the Tribes.
The steppe hosts long, freezing winters and brief but warm summers, with temperatures that vary greatly between the seasons. Winter snowfall is frequent but light, with temperatures so cool that even when skies are clear, snow can form. Temperatures can drop well below freezing (-30 C, -22F), and the unprepared easily run the risk of frostbite or outright freezing with or without the presence of blowing winds.
Precipitation is scarce and focuses much more during the summer - and springs are known for severe winds. Thanks to the arid quality of the climate, summer dust storms are possible though more rare in the north than further south along the plateau.
The steppes are host to mostly grass and shrub lands (which comprise 52% of all land coverage in Mongolia) with far sparser forests with slow-growing and hardy trees that often fall to fire or insects given the harsh climate. Trees, when found, are comprised of mostly birch-type trees, pines, and even the Amur Maple, but most ground cover is comprised by scrubby brush and grass and types of mosses and lichen.
Fauna is well adapted to the climates here, despite the dry and sparse resources available. Gobi argali sheep, wild ass, horses, ibex, saiga, and breeds of gazelle are among the larger of any prey animals, and the steppe is host to wild hamsters, jerboa and voles. Predators are a little more rare - snow leopards stick closer to the more mountainous regions, and the Gobi bear makes for a seasonal predator. Mongolian foxes are sparse, but are a benevolent presence to the Luperci who call the grasslands home. Boars are among the more formidable of the beasts in the region, and pose a larger threat than most of the predators of the region.
Birds are a very common sight dotting the skies and thermals of Khurdan Salkhi's steppe - though the most common that found its way into the employ of the luperci here are large gold eagles, often implemented in hunting as well as valued for companionship and their intelligence. Amidst the grouse, sparrows, finches, and hoopoes, the steppes are also home to abundant numbers of grey demoiselle cranes and predatory birds like owls, kites, hawks, and vultures.
Five humanized groups of Luperci have split the land up amidst themselves and regularly traverse the landscape in seasonal cycles - each are intensely wary of outsiders and outwardly xenophobic, fully expectant for visiting traders to adhere to their cultural norms during expeditions. While nomadic and seemingly simple with their lives, each group expresses tastes for lavish wealth and decor with their homes and the decoration of their livestock and selves. While potentially seen as barbaric to outside cultures, Salkhins have a culture honoring the Body and Intelligence, and have humanized to set themselves apart from the beasts of the land.
Non-luperci are not welcome - Amid the eagle-owning ranks of Salkhins, they are seen as sub-sentient, and there are no qualms with hunting their non-transformed kind.
Despite the united culture of the region, each Tribe conducts within their own small societies, and do not often get along and conflict over territories and resources; they are bound together loosely via trade agreements.
Predominantly Tibetan Wolf, and various wolf-based hybrids make up the majority of Salkhins.
Luperci & Shifting
Every Salkhin is a luperci, either by birth or by a rite of transformation in the rare case of outsiders permitted within their ranks. Shifting itself is not an automatic grant into adulthood; Most Salkhins must undergo ceremonial rites at around 10 months old with rudimentary training before they're acknowledged as true adults and granted permissions.
Languages in the Steppe are Asiatic-influenced, various snippets of and slang of Chinese, Nepalese, and Russian dialects can bleed into the Salkhin's common tongue, though the first and foremost language is Mongolian. English is the most common practiced second language, though it is mostly rudimentary and used with visiting traders from Europe - only among the wealthier individuals is it more commonly spoken and conversational, as they are permitted the most contact with Outsiders and that knowledge is a Privilege amidst the tribes. English is far from a fluid language, though, and often times certain inflections like sarcasm or idioms are not well-grasped by the populous.
Salkhin technology is rudimentary, at best, and tailored to the highly impermanent lifestyles of the wolves living in the region. Housing is in primitive yurts, with supports hammered into the ground to keep them from collapsing in the harsh winds and the outer shells comprised of treated hides or tight-woven cloth. Armor is comprised of metal accents than full plate, and is worked from stiff leathers plaited, and weapons are forged with limited materials (often bone), while more solid, scavenged metal is reserved for sword-blades, bent in a reverse-Kukri style and just as crudely made - more designed for convenience in grip and to maximize damage than for the sake of aesthetic looks and to be used on horseback. Shortbows are favored in forms of long-distance hunting and combat.
Much of the simple and agricultural equipment is centered around the use of horses, and domestic tools such as looms are commonplace.
Animals & Companions
Livestock are commonly kept. Most common among beasts of burden are horses for their versatility, yaks for their strength, as well as sheep or alpacas gained via trading with outsiders for their wool. Less commonly, reindeer are farmed for mounts and food (though it's almost exclusive to the Hovaa Tribe). Birds of prey are often found in the households of royalty or hunters, the most common being breeds of eagles that are captured or outright bred. Even companion animals hold some sort of value in purpose. Only those truly well-off and wealthy are typically able to support exotic pets.
Style and Fashion
It's rare to see undressed luperci in Khurdan Salkhi. While the nicer-produced cloth and goods are reserved for the wealthier families, and more commonly the Khan's family, everyone produces their own clothes with a penchant for dying fabrics and wools in the shades of Tribe Banners. Leathers, furs and hides are common accents. Trinkets and jewelry are typically comprised of fine-carved bone or beads, though metals are reserved for the Social Elite.
Outside of clothing, via southern trade routes, for generations Salkhins have traded for betel, for the fibers and leaves in ceremonial purposes as well as the roots. Betel root is gifted to young luperci for chewing, which in turn dyes teeth dark hues of ruddy reds or blacks which fades over time. This aesthetic (while potentially harmful to health), is indicative of sentience - beasts of the land have white teeth in their jaws. Teeth are modified in other ways as well, the more rich or regal families often get crowns of scavenged metals like gold. Tattooing, scarification, and shaving one's hair to show off bodily modification is relatively commonplace.
The nomadic luperci of the Steppe each have hand-made homes and yurts (otherwise known as gers), large enough to support small households, that can be uprooted and collapsed back down within a few hours. All yurts, when set up, face more eastward and away from the blowing winds, in part to maximize the inlet of sunlight and reduce cooling from the breeze. Claimed landmarks that range further into nestles of mountains and protected from the wind and elements provide seasonal shelters for the elite few of the Tribe, but are regarded as heavenly structures; Traders from all over are more likely to encounter Salkhins here in these refuges, and much commerce is conducted in hallowed halls of old temples.
Practices & Traditions
The Mongolian Salkhin are beholden to their strong and deep-rooted traditions and conservative manners of life and are incredibly private as such.
Gender and Sexuality
Salkhin adhere to typical gender roles: Men provide, hunt, and typically plan for the household. The eldest able-bodied man has the most political sway within his family, seconded only by the eldest woman. Women fill the roles of caretakers, healers, cooks - however, they are also known to handle the butchering of meat and tanning of hides. Craftsmanship is valued highly among both genders, the more deft the hands, the more valued the individual. Homosexuality is not well-flaunted, as the view of the denizens of Khurdan Salkhi are dated and traditionalist, and are thus biased against same-sex couples. Sexuality, in general, is taboo - Salkhins are expected to keep affairs and affections behind closed doors as it is unseemly to flaunt relationships and considered to invite ill-will and fates to their romances. Unions are commonly arranged between consenting parties.
Families and Family Structures
Families bind individually beneath the five lead groups, named after each of the reigning families there, Himaa, Gyldai, Hovaa, Yat-Khu, and Mol. It is expected for families to raise offspring until they're fit to be labeled as an adult at 10 months of age, to which the young are to construct and own their own households; when parents have aged, they typically move in with their children and are cared for by the collective of their offspring for the rest of their days.
Shifting and Coming of Age
Regardless of the month in which young luperci shift, they are not considered competent adults until they hit 10 months of age; by that point they are to have cultivated basic skills to fend for themselves and contribute towards the betterment of the Clan. After providing a gift of their choosing and pledging fealty to their respective Khans are young luperci admitted into the ranks of adults in public ceremony.
Luck and Superstition
Khurdan Salkhi are full of highly superstitious canines, all of which have different manners of regarding actions in ways that may twist the Fates in or out of their favors. For example - it is bad luck to gift a new couple who have not yet conceived a blanket woven with pale white wool, as it will lead to failed pregnancies. When travelling to new sites, luperci often bring containers with dirt from their old homes with them, and scatter it on the ground and refill it with new soil in order to unite the lands beneath them and protect their territories, as well as invite good will. They believe all kinds of stuff!
Fishing and Hunting
Fishing and Hunting are vital roles in helping the Tribes to grow and prosper; Few hunters, having bonded and trained with eagles, can venture for days on expeditions and trips via horseback on hunts, and use their trusty birds to bring down prey or interlopers who dare to come too close to their Tribe's encampment. Waterways are coveted and fished with woven nets, but not without leaving small, material offerings along the banks of bone or horn to give thanks, though often times they are competed over thoroughly to get the best resources. Rivers are no exception, and rife with territorial conflict for fishing and water. Any parts left unused from hunted game must be buried to return to the earth.
While Khurdan Salkhi is host to a number of trade routes and is a fairly central point between Western Europe and Southwest Asia, rarely do Salkhins uproot from their tribes to travel them due to tight knit communties. Well-worn routes though are always open, though expeditions could last from weeks to months - Salkhins are used to traveling, and tend to own multiple animals to distribute loads more easily and traverse more distance.
According to the World Travel Resource, travel from East Asia would take 1-3 months sailing, with 18-25 days walking. As Khurdan Salkhi is more Western-located and almost central to the continent, it's easy to imagine it taking longer; a luperci should expect to be traveling around 6-8 months before hitting 'Souls territories.
The Canines of Khurdan Salkhi are very suspicious of outsiders and their ways, but welcome them for trade. It's expected that outsiders respect their culture and ways when visiting, and homes are even opened by gracious hosts to their guests - even if it may be somewhat to keep a closer eye on the strangers in their lands. Traders are typically allowed prolonged stays only if there has been agreed upon goods and written correspondence to the Khan of that tribe, in which they will be given their own housing. If the good promised were not brought, traders may be expelled, injured, or demanded something of recompense, including collateral from their trading parties in the form of temporary wards.
Each Tribe is lead by the Khan, and by extension the Khan's family - the Tribe is named after the reigning family, though if that Khan were to die, and have no successors, a new Khan would be selected via combative trial and a new Tribe would be formed.
The Khan's word is final and law - while all five of the groups have similar laws, the manner in which they are carried rests squarely on the shoulders of the mercy of the Khan. The severity for desertion remains the same for all five of the Tribes though, in which the sentencing is disowning and death; if one quits the battlefield while still able to fight, (s)he risks forfeiting his/her life regardless.
Superstition and old fables rule in way of religion in Khurdan Salkhi; there are old magics that run in the blood that gave Luperci the gift of strategy and intelligence and set them above all else, and there are inherent beliefs between forces of good and evil in the form of spirits that roam the land, benevolent until given reason. While there are no enforcers of religion, some Tribesmen and women take tales more to heart and follow shamanistic paths and adopt the roles of mediators between the living and the dead.
Weight of actions bear to weigh on spirits and the Fates, which dictate the paths which one should lead. Fates are more higher being, than anything, a term for the metaphysical that is life, where as Spirits are meddlesome and invisible specters that walk the realm of the living. They're mysterious, and can act unprovoked; all manner of offerings are made to appease spirits, and each household is known to have a small shrine dedicated to ancestors to keep memories alive.
Paper lanterns hold a hallowed significance, and carry the souls of the deceased to whatever lies on the other side of mortality; Cranes are thought to be the peaceful dead found form, and are revered as such.
At the start of each summer, Tribes will light paper lanterns and send them down rivers or up into the air as a festival of remembrance to help guide lost spirits and deceased love ones to find peace in the afterlife. At the end of summer, Salkhins will fly kites and hold a feast and festivities in a celebration of life; regardless of age, casks of wine are traded and dispersed among the Tribe to be broken into and partaken without judgement.
WEALTH • PROSPERITY • AMBITION
A wealthy Tribe with more open ideals that the rest, the Himaa strive to unify the Five under their banner. Not averse to the use of force, they push their proverbial weight both physically and economically in the region, accruing outside wealth via domination of trade routes. While still presenting the xenophobia as characteristic with the region, they are more accepting of outsiders; the Himaa have been accused of forsaking traditional views when their Khan wed a foreigner from further east, who has helped to shape their relations with worldly visitors, which in turn, bolsters their numbers. Look-alikes and twins are highly valued amidst the Himaa, who use these doppelgangers as fear tactics against other tribes in skirmishes, earning them the reputation of being able to raise their dead and have innate, otherworldly abilities to heal.
The Himaa have the best grasp on English in the region, though it is still lacking.
They are also the only clan to not control one, but two old temples, one absorbed from a smaller clan that joined the Himaa to avoid eradication by the hand of the Yat-Khu. The feud between the two Tribes has lasted generations and resulted in bloodshed on multiple occasions.
CUNNING • FREEDOM • PASSION
The Gyldai, while private and self-minded and the second smallest Tribe, have vast influence. More diplomatic towards the fellow Tribes, they have garnered favor with each of them for having control over the most valuable resource in the region: Horses. This Tribe keeps to its own, and follows migratory herds, and practices training and breaking of horses to the point of making it a mastery. As well as trading these animals to fellow Tribes, they will loan out horse trainers to their neighbors (albeit temporarily) to teach skills in animal husbandry. They are potentially the most mobile of the Tribes, and stick mostly to the plains and away from hills. While they speak very little English, the Gyldai will adopt the roles of guide for visiting traders. Outsiders are not allowed within their homes but they do provide provisions for those passing by. Their Khan is a tough woman who inherited her throne in the wake of her husband's death; a usurper within their ranks sought power for himself, until she outed him and had the man ripped apart by horses, lending a ruthless air to her rumors. She admires modesty among her people, and flies the banner in earthy tones in homage to the lands they call home.
The Gyldai Tribe has the highest number of dog hybrids, and are known for being stringy, hardy and swift as the wind that sweeps the Steppe.
UNITY • FAMILY • MASTERY
The Hovaa are the sister Tribe to the Himaa, born from a splinter off of the larger tribe when two brothers were born to a Khan who could not choose his predecessor. They are quiet and private, and move around the least of the tribes, making their homes nestled up against the rolling hills and mountains. Their temple has become a year-round home, and the surrounding landscape shaped by generations of tea-workers and farming. The Hovaa have adopted an artistry with their crafts, producing fine livestock and agriculture that they share openly with the Himaa in exchange for protection. This moderately-sized Tribe is tightly-knit, and averse to taking on wards or strangers into their midst; while thought to be a peaceful tribe of farmers, it is unwise to underestimate the Hovaa; living in a permanent settlement has allotted them time to build a well-used forge and master their crafts. The key to the life of the Hovaa is to balance the body and mind.
The Hovaa are also well-known for maintaining herds of domesticated reindeer, and do trade off excess stock to Outsiders for a hefty sum.
HONOR • TRADITION • STRENGTH
Fierce traditionalists, the Yat-Khu are a force to be reckoned with. They seek to restore order and balance to their homelands and do so by force, forcibly taking over smaller family groups or newly-growing Tribes into their ranks to bolster numbers while boasting an absurd elitism while seeking to free the Steppe of foreign influences. Highly suspicious of outsiders, they do not share their customs lightly. They strive for self-sufficiency, and control the river ways, using spare water to tactical advantage; it's because of this, their severe possessive approach to the Steppes, and inflexibility that they found enemies amidst the Himaa generations earlier.
They stalwartly traverse along the riverbanks, and are the only Tribe to reject outsiders. Their Khan is an aging, partially blind warrior with a keen, strategic mind and boundless patience.
HARMONY • PRESERVATION • SPIRIT
Traditionalists, but without the taste for blood like the Yat-Khu, they are a secretive, small, and passive group that traverses along the Steppe. They're mobile and quiet tacticians, preferring quieter long-range combat and produce archers of the highest quality. Mol hunters are said to have hundreds of eyes, so connected and in tune with the birds they raise; they see everything that happens in the Steppe, but due to their incredibly private nature, their neighbors know little of their comings and goings, or their influence. Any meetings with traders or outsiders are met on neutral ground - no foreigner has been privy to their encampments, and rarely do the other Tribes know of their whereabouts.
The other Tribes often warn their children to stick close, or else they'll be swooped up by the Mol's eagles; rumors lend tales that the Mol have infiltrated each Tribe to listen in on their operations and that their Khan is older than the stone and wind itself.
She's really just a little old woman trying to keep the peace.
If your area has a particular influence on 'Souls (e.g., a large number of immigrants come from this area, or a pack was founded on the basic beliefs of this area) write about it here! List any families that originate in your area:
If there was a massive war or other large scale occurrence here, you may include it here, however, please keep in mind that these events don't have a lot of meaning for characters who did not originate from the place during that time. A generalized summary is much better.
Dog Breed Notes