Something something Wayrest, split off something during the Second Era.
The Aristocracy Edit
Geography and DemographicsEdit
The County of Menevia could be described as a land guarded by earth and water. It finds it's northern border winding along the southern embankment of the great rivers flowing down from the Wrothgar, separating it from Orsinium and Alcaire, To the west and the south, sheer white cliffs hold fast against the crashing waves of the Iliac bay. And to the east, fertile river land that delineates the border between Wayrest and Menevia, giving way to forest and hills before finally breaking on the enormity that is. Menevia's fortunes and fate have inevitably been tied to the land and the rise and fall the mighty Kingdoms, Empires and Hegemonies that have laid claim to it during the long centuries.
Menevia's most obvious and striking geological feature are the tall white cliffs that dominate the majority of it's coastline, beginning in earnest just beyond the town of Aldingbury, before rising majestically southward, reaching their peak at the town of Reywell, gradually declining south toward Menevia city and then ever eastwards. While these cliffs have provided a natural defence for the people of Menevia - very few armies or raiding parties have successfully made landfall along its rocky coast - it also has very few natural harbours. This resulted in Menevia never really having access to sea trade and rising to prominence, a stark contrast to the great power of Wayrest down the coast.
Sitting on this skyward stretch of the west coast lay the large settlements in Menevia, chief of them being the capital, the City of Menevia. Straddling the river that provides one of the few sheltered harbours along the mighty Menevian cliffs. Bordered by light forests and woodland, the Menevian east and south is a hinterland of fertile river valleys and wooded hills, home to the loggers, the wine growers, the woodsmen and many others besides. Within these wooded glens small hamlets dot the countryside, as the main road winds its way southeast towards the border town of Lamford. From there, it is a relatively short trip by river to reach the other border town of Vanwood, before the river opens up into the vast Iliac bay.
Travelling north from the city of Menevia, one reaches the open plains and dales of Reywell and central Menevia. Here lay the farmers, the warriors, the horsemen. Tightly knit communities living in the shadows of old Direnni ruins or Nord barrows, spread out across a vast and open prairie. The largest of these is the town of Reywell, crowning the White Cliffs. The people of the Reywell region are a cultural oddity compared to the rest of Menevia, more insular and militarily minded than elsewhere. While most of the settlements here are small, the bountiful farmland has resulted in the majority of Menevia's population taking residence in this central region. Beyond here, the road winds North, and then Northwest, headed for Menevia's wilder country.
The plains of the hinterland soon give way to highlands and hills of the Menevian north, spanning between the mountains of Orisinium and the waters of the Iliac. Here the heavy woods hold sway, as several rivers drain down through the crags and wilderlands, forming the border of what is Menevia and what lies beyond. It is home to two settlements, important but for two different reasons. Aldingbury is significant as it is the only port town in Northern Menevia, a sight of trade and fishing. West Castle, meanwhile, is the most fortified stronghold in the north. It sits on a crossroads, with the road north leading to Alcaire, the west to Aldingbury, east to Orsinium and south to the rest of Menevia. It is common knowledge that anyone invading Menevia from the north must take West Castle first.
Culture and SocietyEdit
Ceremonies and RitualsEdit
Tea ceremonies are most often performed at weddings but they also have their place in guest-honour. An outsider has more than often wondered at the ceremonies the witness. A sign of respect, veneration, and of acceptance it also marks times of change, of transition. Bride and grooms-to be serve the elders of each other’s families tea, boy and girls that reach adulthood demonstrate their maturity by performing the ceremony, hosts provide their guests with tea and hardly ever wine.
A wedding begins at the home of the bride’s family. Two chairs are set up in the guest room and the table beside it will have tea brewing in a small pot. From here the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles of each family is seated. The bride will perform the ceremony and serve the elders of the groom’s family and vice-versa. This is a sign of great respect and honour to the elders, but also an indication of an elder’s acceptance and approval of the union. Should one not accept the tea, this is seen as dishonourable and selfish but does little to impact the marriage as an agreement will have already been reached between the parents of both parties.
Tea ceremonies also take place in coming-of-age; when a child becomes an adult. To mark this transition, the child is dressed in their finest and the guest room is set up as the tea room. The child performs this tea ceremony themselves, serving their parents before themselves. By humbling themselves before their parents, they have shown they are mature in mind and spirit – and are therefore an adult.
As a representation of humility, harmony and veneration hosts are to perform the tea ceremony to each of his guests within his household. Further to this, when serving dinner the host is responsible for keeping the guest’s teacup full. If they do not refill it, this is an indication for the guest to leave, unless it is established they will stay for the night.
Apotropaic Rituals Edit
"Sin-Eaters" and their role in LawEdit
Sometime before a trial can legally start, a defence barrister undertakes a personal apotropaic ritual meal with their client. This meal takes place in a building specially built for this purpose, owned by the guild. With its plaster and frescoes spell-woven, the building rumbles with magic. Further to this, these frescoes depict pictorial ‘instructions’ on how the ritual is undertaken. However, it’s largest – and most famous – fresco is that of a defence barrister sharing a hearty meal with his client. While it seems normal and nothing out of the ordinary at first, if one were to look at the painting from a different angle or stand at a different point in the room, it seems as if the face of both lawyer and client change – a representation of the many ritualistic meals that took place in this building.
Several rooms are dedicated as ‘private dining rooms’ between lawyer and client. These may vary in size and decoration, and depending on the weight of the client’s charges will dictate which room they will dine in. The lawyer will then light incense, placing in the middle of the table. After this is done, the client performs the tea ceremony to the person representing them in court, putting them in the authority. And, as this is an apotropaic ritual, the lawyer is meant to hold that “power,” bearing responsibility over their client. Furthermore, ceremonial magic is tied in with this ritual, and performed by the lawyer. The meal is specially prepared, and there can only be certain foods both parties can eat, with other foods having a temporary “taboo” over them. As such, both parties are to keep away from ‘impure’ meats such as pork, frog or crustaceans for a period of time till the trial. The meal is prepared by cooking lamb with rosemary, thyme and sage as a means to ‘cleanse’ the food. This is served alongside Essene bread and honey, wheat berries, and a sweet wine.
A week or two before the meal takes place, the client is to give their lawyer a possession of theirs, or anything that holds sentimental value. The lawyer then takes this and hands it to a priest to bless and enchant it. During the ritual, this item is returned to its owner, and the client then gives the lawyer another item or trinket of their own, of which they will keep on their person up until the end of the trial.
Before and after the meal, defence lawyers have a temporary sumptuary law placed over them, and cannot wear certain colours, namely white, or anything gold (be it jewellery or embroidery). Rather, they’re to wear darker and muted tones. However, this is not some passive aggressive way of the lawyer condemning their client by taking on their “sins.” Instead, it’s the lawyer’s way of symbolically promising to zealously defend their client and work ethically, and take on their perceived sins and make public that they are defending a person in court. This then allows the anger – rightly or wrongly – to be lain on the barrister, as it is often that the accused is immediately seen as guilty by the public, regardless of evidence. This, along with the entire process of the ritual is to create an intimate relationship with the client, but also provide a means for the lawyer to “eat” the perceived sins (true or untrue) of their client, and carry that burden to court.
Further to this, by “absolving” the client of their perceived sins, this gives the client added protection from the public until their guilt is proven. And until it is proven, they are by law, to be treated as innocent. After all, it is not the defence lawyer’s job nor place to judge their client. It is not uncommon that a lawyer has to take measures to give their client a guard, or hide them in area away from the public.
Depending on the results of the trial will dictate what the lawyer does with the trinket they were given. If their client was found guilty and executed, the lawyer takes this item to a stone circle in the woods outside the city. They burn this alongside sage and rosemary, and bring with them a stick of incense to burn, cleansing the ashes. These are then taken to the ashes or casket of their deceased client, and sprinkle it over the top. A priest of Arkay will then perform their own sin-eating ritual for the now deceased. These combined acts as a means to ward away evil and necromancers from using a “tainted” soul. If the client is acquitted, the trinket is returned – though some grateful peoples will insist their lawyer keep it. And in cases where the results are “mixed,” with the Prosecution and Defence losing and winning in some areas, a coloured ribbon infused with sage and rosemary is tied to the trinket and returned.
However, this ritual is never fully understood by the general public. As there are so many nuances, hidden meanings and symbolisms within it, it naturally makes it difficult to understand. Moreover, each ritual – as defence lawyers will see – have their differences. As the ceremony is so personal and intimate, there is also the factor of the relationship between lawyer and client that plays a role in how both parties perceive the ritual. Defence lawyers have received the (somewhat unfair) derogatory term of being sin-eaters by their critics and enemies, or worse still, a “criminal sympathiser.”
Some festivals, harkening back to the First Era are still celebrated in Menevia today. Namely are its re-enactments of folktales - something every burgher, villein and noble can participate in.
The Festival of the Three-Headed BeastEdit
In the region of Tunwick, there is a certain festival held on the 26th of Frostfall each year in celebration of its oldest folktale. Hanging a goat's skull on their door, the townsfolk spend the day outside dressed in all manners of costumes. A traditional and conservative people, the townspeople wear various wooden masks, each depicting which characters they play. A group of townspeople are selected each year as the designated "evil" character - a monster to terrorise the townsfolk. They then dress up in a fur suit, wear a belt and hang animals bones from it, and wear a bone-necklace. The mask they don, which fits over the entire head is specially designed to appear frightening, twisted and haggard - some of these even resembling a grotesque goat or boar - each having goat horns attached. With a slightly elongated design, the mask-maker designs these in such a way that when the wear speaks or screams, their voice is distorted into something beastly and monstrous. Some wearers even like to hang ornaments and votives from the horns of their masks.
Just outside the town, a giant effigy of a three-headed beast is set up before festivities start. Throughout the day, the burghers parade though town dressed in their costume - and among them, hide the 'monsters' whose role is kept secret, partaking in the festivities as ordinary townsfolk. Wine, cheese and music mark the celebrations - and there might be the occasional acrobat or fire-eater. Adults throw coloured bags of sweets to children, and these children compete in various games against each other. But the real event has not yet started. The burghers, knowing that some amongst them are this year's designated 'monster,' must guess amongst themselves who it is. But this is where they must be careful - as the person they confide with in "guessing" the monster may be one themselves. Further to this, the monsters - who each know each other's true identity, and would have planned a strategy beforehand - are to act as the silent and unseen saboteurs throughout the festival. Although their actions are of course, restricted from criminal acts and unlawful acts, they cause small mishaps; a misplaced item, a missing object only to turn up in an odd place later, or finding out that you've somehow bought along less cheeses to sell only to later discover it was all inside your own home...and despite the evidence, you seemingly remember placing all of them in a crate and taking it to your stand. Despite the celebrations and music, this festival is more than anything, a game of cat-and-mouse, of sabotage and deception. While the townsfolk try and discover the identities of the monsters within their communties, the monsters re-direct this attention. Furthermore, as the numbers of monsters change each year (a figure only known to those selected), and with each person hiding behind a mask make it all the harder for the townsfolk to determine their identities.
At the stroke of midnight, the true game begins. The monsters, having now worn their "real" costume are to chase and capture the townsfolk. The click-clack of animal bones as they move about, their distorted screams as they give chase are a cruel reminder no burgher is ever truly safe, and that they are always close-by. Once captured, the burgher made into a 'monster' themselves, and must change masks to a similar one to the monsters, though less elaborate - and they do not wear a fur suit. These townsfolk "corrupted" into monsters then give chase to the remaining townsfolk and must try and do the same to them. Meanwhile, the burghers must try and shine a light on the monsters and shout the name of the man or woman behind it, and shed the monster from the person beneath it. This is why the villagers must guess - and guess correctly - who the monsters may be beforehand, during the day. However, the added difficulty is that if a man is correct in thinking his friend is the monster throughout the day, and calls out his name as he is chased, it isn't always guaranteed that it is his friend chasing him in that moment. Moreover, the townspeople must try and set the effigy alight (as in the folktale, the beast created the 'main' monsters) and once it is entirely up in flames, the game finishes. Depending on how many people the monsters have 'corrupted' determines the winners of the game.
Festivities continue with the killing of a goat, its remains thrown onto the burning effigy. Its head, however is kept behind so its horns can be used to craft another mask, or the skull turned into a trophy of sorts. The burghers then dance and sing around the fire.
The Festival of the Full MoonsEdit
A festival largely celebrated in the City of Menevia, though it is not uncommon for it to be celebrated elsewhere. During the time of year when both Masser and Secunda are full is when Menevians come out a celebrate, taking protective measures for the deceased. An altar is set up in the home, and offerings are placed on it - sweets, wine, small trinkets and the like - and a stick of incense is burnt for the deceased. Chapels and churches will have their own altars, too. With incense having purifying and cleansing effects, and keeps the household protected, and souls of their deceased pure and clean.
During the parade, certain people are selected by aldermen to dress as prominent figure in Menevian folklore: an old, haggard woman carrying a staff tasked with protecting the deceased from necromancers. This person leads the crowd, and they carry with them a device wherein they place burning incense around the district. All the while, people will place votives around graveyards as another offering. Priests of Arkay will then perfom a ritual to protect the dead at the gravesite, and ward off any malicious force.
Festivities continue, and there is music, parades and dancing. Then, at midnight, all light sources are extinguished for a certain period of time, and the city falls into silence; the only illumination one receives is from the two full moons.