|Kern: Social Customs
|Kernin Social Customs
Money talks. If you understand that, you understand the principle that drives Kernin society.
Gods do not grant a Kernin power and status (money does!), but nobility can be gained if one has enough gold and perseverance. Success is measured by the amount of material wealth a person has or displays through action and example. Throwing lavish, expensive parties and celebrations are a standard practice for Kernin who wish to commemorate successful business years or other events. It matters little that someone nearly bankrupts himself on such a gala, as the party-giver's status is raised and cemented in place for the immediate future in everyone's eyes. Those from elsewhere in Telluria think Kernin spend too much time having parties to honor given events, with the sole apparent purpose to throw money at people. Other examples of exhibiting wealth include giving opulent gifts, exorbitant samples (to potential customers), and overblown gratuities for services rendered or during trade negotiations with clients.
Another of the most important status symbols in Kern is where a person lives. The center of all activity in Kern is its capital, Whytecoin, and having an address within its walls is a sure sign of superiority. Landowning itself is not a mark of status as it is in Toralin; which land, where it is located, and what is done with it are all factors that determine landís status potential. For example, a woman buys lakefront property on Lake Rhyvallon away from the main roads, close to the Fishery District of Rhy'taran. Her friends lament her loss of status until (surprise!) she opens an upscale underwater festhall with seafood delicacies. Multiple dwellings are expected of a successful merchant family, and multiple estates are the norm for each of the major merchant houses. The finest dwellings are in Whytecoin's Gem District, while the best estates surround Lake Rhyvallon.
A person can also display status and rank by the gaudiness and complexity of his apparel. Befitting the population's Imperial roots, ornate hairpieces are common on women; the more elaborate the hairpiece, the better (i.e., the higher the implied status). Embroidery of gold, silver, or platinum threads is a status symbol used by many up-and coming merchants and traders. Capes, cloaks, sashes, and decorative baldrics of the finest metal-embroidered silks and satins are popular with both sexes. A recent affectation in Kernin fashion is the use of rare furs from the far north, worn in stylish open vests or as cloaks, regardless of how warm the weather is. Jewelry also represents affluence. In fact, it is unusual for an Kernin to wear less than two precious metal rings, usually with inset gems. The preferred jewels in fashion among Kernin of late are pearls: the smaller and more numerous, the better, though an exceedingly rare black pearl can outdo any number of white pearls. Despite this pomp, the richest Kernin merchant houses disdain "petty status-climbing", dressing instead in simple but perfectly tailored garb with a minimum of jeweled decoration (meaning one or two rings per hand). Gaining wealth is met with a touch of contempt, since the pursuit of money is seen primarily as a task of negotiation and strategy rather than a chore of exertion and dedication.
Kern is a class-based society wherein those with the most money are accorded the best treatment. Wealth "proves" to society that a person deserves better treatment solely on the merit of having such riches. Rather than using terms such as "noble" or "high-born", people in Kern refer to social status in terms of precious metals, from the lowest ("ore") to the highest ("mithril"). Despite their preoccupation with wealth and status, Kernin of vast means use charity donations as yet another sign of status: The more you give, the better off you (and the poor) are. Of course, some charities put their effort toward helping the destitute, while others help themselves to profit.
Etiquette and protocol in Kern are highly involved and difficult for outsiders to discern. However, like all else in Kern, they follow the Golden Rule: "The one with the gold makes all the rules." Social gaffes are common if one doesn't follow the quick changes in status, such that more weight is given to those with the most recent and liberally spent fortunes. If a person with such skills does not use them to gain money and power, an Kernin considers that person a failure or a fool. If a hostess was recently outbid in business by one of her guests, the dress and behavior for the party is established by that guest over the hostess, in which case the hostess can save face by declaring the party to be in honor of her esteemed and prosperous guest.
Kernin are quite open with and tolerant of races and creeds with whom they do business. Everyone is a potential customer or client, and deserves to be treated as such within the normal bounds of propriety. A richly dressed thoughteater gets better treatment than a shabby dwarf any day. Of course, this openness is guarded, and a Kernin of means always has an escort of at least two guards. Tolerance for the sake of business is never overshadowed by fear of the dangers of a deal gone wrong.
As a merchant nation, Kern hears every tongue of Andurin (and some other worlds and planes) in its markets. It rarely takes more than an hour in Kern to find someone who can translate any language spoken in the past few centuries for a fee, of course. Still, merchants doing business in Kern must brush up on the ancient trade tongue of Kronesh, long abandoned elsewhere for today's common language. All documents, contracts, court proceedings, and official scripts and speeches used by Kernin merchant houses or the government use Kronesh. While an understanding of many languages is certainly helpful, the further one goes in Kernin politics or trade, the less one needs any tongue other than Kronesh.
Agrarian folk living outside Kern's cities, being simple laborers and farmers, rarely use Kronesh and speak a pidgin form of common, like the common tongue in Toralin. "Kernin common" is frequently and indiscriminately peppered with Kronesh constructions and terms, most often those referring to cities or the merchants therein.
While the focus of every Kernin's life is the procurement of wealth, religion still plays an important role that is free of direct government control. Kern's rulers, The Ducal Council, act against churches in Kern only when a temple or a member of it speaks out against the Grand Dukes or interferes with business at hand. Guilty parties are dealt with swiftly and with extreme prejudice, a fate that goes unquestioned in this land. Despite this, all religions known across the Andurin can be found here with temples, shrines, and holy places of all sizes. No official state religion exists, nor do elite merchant families have a consensus on the most proper gods to worship.
Unless it disrupts business or the Council's will, religious freedom is paramount in Kern. With the wide range of religious beliefs found in Kern, it is not surprising that nearly every Kernin pays lip service to every god known. Gods are commonly invoked without ceremony to give them their due in whatever business one conducts.
As in other lands, sea traders mutter prayers to the gods Tharnak and Krajesh (NE Hyboras Aspect of Tharnak, god of the sea, storms and ill luck) for protection and appeasement, while caravan workers whisper personal prayers to Vosht (LN Kernin Aspect of Solnor, god of vigilance, guardians and wards) for safe travel, Llyndeiras for good business, and Benvolio for protection against thieves. This does not make an Kernin a worshiper of all gods, but a shrewd person who covers all the angles of his actions. The following gods are the most popular in Kern, those for whom the majority of Kernin bear true piety and devotion.
The style of worship led by the Goldspires lends itself directly to an Kernin's social upbringing. Temple services are now almost all parties, with the faithful contributing to far more lavish banquets and revels than any could afford alone.
Benvolio (CG Fhaardi halfling Aspect of Llyndeiras, god of thieves and rogues, wealth and prosperity, and patron of halflings and halffolk.)
Almaril (CG), goddess of love, passion and beauty.
Almaril, the goddess of beauty, passion and love, fits easily into the superficial, status-driven society of Kern. With the weight of importance placed on showing wealth through clothing and accoutrements, Almaril's followers feel more at home in Kern with their typically flamboyant mode of dress than they do in other countries. Due to the warmer climes and the need to have their beauty noticed, Almaril's Kernin clergy are often found in more provocative, revealing silks and satins than they might wear in Londoun.
Maevas (NG Tor'ali Aspect of Tevesh, goddess of agriculture, harvests and abundance)
Kern, like Toralin, reveres Maevas because the backbones of their economies rest on agricultural surpluses. Bad harvests hurt everyone, and Maevas' few temples see much merchant-house traffic in the days approaching the harvests each year. While most merchants acknowledge Maevas' gifts infrequently, the lower class and farm workers fervently revere her.
In Kern, as in Toralin, the bulk of Maevas' worship takes place in small shrines among the fields or beside trade roads. Itinerant priests of Maevas wander across the south to aid crops where needed.
Nokhra (NE Kernin Aspect of Llyndeiras, god of theft, murder and secrets)
In recent years, the influence of the Ebonfire has grown throughout Kernin society. The Ebonfire is primarily a thieves' guild, but it also counts amongst its numbers wizards who practice necromany and other fell magicka, as well as priests of Nokhra and on occasion Gorgauth. Temples to Nokhra are far and few between in Kern. When one is found, usually at the hands of priests or paladins of Solnor or by adventuring groups, it is usually razed or destroyed beyond recognition.
Solnor (LG), god of justice, goodness/light and patron of paladins.
Odion (LN Mel'Cendian Aspect of Solnor), god of valor, self-sacrifice and honor. Patron deity of the Imperial line.
Tevesh (LG), god of healing, non-violence and patron of monks.
Solnor, Odion and Tevesh are revered but not worshiped in most cities in Kern. Worship is limited to the city of Rhyvallon and lands east of the Tejarn Hills. These faiths are often seen as offshoots of Toralin's strong love of these deities, in particular Odion.