Friday, July 06, 2012


While Calça is famously the "lost province" on the northern extreme of the Terrasan world, the fact is that to the east of Calça is a broad frontier zone where terrasan, drylander and balshatoi influences all come together.  This stretches for hundreds of miles through the Bisbal forest, the northern portions of the Volo and Tec River valleys and the Garriga mountains, and even the very northern edge of the Shifting Forest.  Never claimed by Terrasan or drylander empires either one, and never settled by the tribesmen, who prefer the more open territories just to the north, culturally it's a mêlange, but politically, it's always been a number of independent farms, villages and small towns.

Life in this frontier zone is tough.  Not only is the terrain often difficult--thick forests, or green, forested and nearly impassible mountains make up much of it, but Untash raiders, xenophobic shifters, and roving bands of outlaws and marauders threaten anyone who would settle here.  Most of those who do are in fact outlaws, criminals, runaway slaves, army deserters--or otherwise outcasts who cannot return to the society from which they fled.  Some few, however, have set up would-be utopias--social experiments meant to eschew the way of life of their parent culture and develop something else.  One of the most successful of these is Samettia.

Founded by Grisende Mignard three hundred years ago, it has become a radical and militant force on the frontier that few are willing to tussle with.  Grisende was herself the product of a radical experiment generations in the making; her great-great-grandfather being a famous practitioner of animal husbandry who arranged the marriage of his children along similar theories, practicing a form of eugenics.  His heirs continued his "work" and by the time of Grisende, the women in the family were little more than brood mares, kept locked up and almost constantly pregnant from the time that they first showed signs of puberty until they were no longer usable.  Hating her cruel father, Grisende murdered him before she could be similarly raped and impregnated (she was only 11) and fled with as many of her female aunts, cousins, sisters and nieces as she could convince to leave their home behind.  Developing a theory of radical feminism, they founded their utopian city of Samettia in the northern Garriga Mountains, in a valley later called Grisende's Cove.  Adopting and adapting the idea of eugenics, and augmenting it with alchemical "steroids" and other substances, Samettia has developed into one of the most radical and frightening places for a man to be. 

Men have no real place in Samettian society at all.  Men are kidnapped or taken captive in raids (either by the Samettians themselves on their neighbors or by their neighbors on Samettia, either one) and if they meet the Matrons' strict inspection, they are repeatedly raped and then murdered by a number of women, to ensure future generations of Samettians.  Ritual medicine/magic ensures that few if any boys are ever born to Samettian women--those that do are usually raised as seers and priests, seen to be spiritual in the different way than women will be.  If there are already enough future priests in the "pipeline" then any boys unfortunate enough to be born at such a time are summarily killed.

Bitter and resentful of the way she was treated as a child, Grisende's utopian society was designed around ensuring that the women of Samettia could never be exploited by men again.  Fiercely independent, fearsome warriors, and with a merciless attitude, the utopian lifestyle envisioned by these women is one of nearly constant discipline, toil, training and work--a radical feminist Sparta, if you will.  The Samettians eschew much in the way of artistic or "high cultural" endeavors, although their city is well-built, defensible, practical and self-sufficient.  In the evenings, the women gather in semi-subterranean longhouses in small groups for shared meals, music, stories, and talking.  During the day, all able-bodied citizens of Samettia spend at least three hours in weapons training and exercise.  While farming is done in Grisende's Cove, much of the meat that the women of Samettia eat is hunted wild game--deer, squirrel, and turkey making up the majority of it, supplemented by farm-raised beef, mutton, and pork.  The Samettians don't really have a tradition of horsemanship, and keep few horses.  Their heavily wooded and often steeply sloped hills and mountains are not ideal terrain for horsemanship in any case.

The native language of Samettia is a dialect of north Terrasan.  However, women of various ethnicities have been allowed to join the community, and the method by which the women of Samettia are impregnated by various captive men both have led to genetic diversity that is extraordinarily high in the Three Empires region.  This means that describing the "typical" Samettian physically is somewhat difficult.  Well-formed, usually with bronzed skin and dark hair and eyes, a great deal of variety in coloration of skin, hair, and eyes, as well as stature and shape of the face exist among the population.  The use of alchemical "steroids" does, however, favor a muscular and often tall or bulky build; Samettian women tend to be as large and as strong as most men elsewhere--although some are bred specifically for speed or stealth, and instead have a rangy build.  This continued "women husbandry" eugenics program, as it is called, has divided the Samettians into castes--although those who show aptitude and desire to belong to a different caste other than what they are born and bred for are permitted to change caste without too much fanfare or difficulty--the primary driver being aptitude and capability of performing in the desired caste's role in society.

Samettians usually wear very little in the warmer seasons--just harnesses and belts for the holding of weapons, pouches and other gear, as well as a lightweight cloak to cover up with in the event of rain or a cool front.  In the winter, buckskin leggings and tops, as well as thicker fur cloaks and vests keep them warm.  Higher in the Garriga Mountains, the weather gets colder, and there is frequent precipitation in the region, but in the lowlands, freezing temperatures are more infrequent and don't last very long.

Samettians also frequently wear odd jewelry that is attached via adhesives directly to the skin, and practice extensive henna-tattoing.  In most cases, this is to make themselves either more beautiful or more intimidating, although in this culture, intimidating is often seen as a mark of beauty.

Samettians have (usually) little desire to leave their utopia except on hunting or raiding expeditions.  The education process of Samettia inculcates a fear and loathing of society outside of their own, making the Samettians perhaps the most xenophobic community in the entire Three Empires region--surpassing even that of the Shifting Forest changelings.  Trespassers, if not kidnapped for rape and murder, are instead summarily hunted and killed.  In recent years, however, there have been some attempts at developing some ties with the outside world, mostly to ensure that their utopia is not threatened.  Ambassadorial delegations have appearred in Simashki, Iclezza and Segrià, as well as among the Untash and Tazitta tribal councils, and some Samettian warriors have hired themselves out as guards or soldiers on rare occasions.  And occasionally one is born with curiousity and wanderlust and just wants to see the world outside of the confined area in which they live in the northern Garriga highlands.  And of course, sometimes outlaws and outcasts make their way out of the core Samettian country and into other lands as well.  As the community becomes more involved in the outside world, there are more and more of these happening--although some of the more brutal ways of the past are also being slowly softened.  Many Samettian women are now impregnated by willing men in their own lands who are met by traveling groups of Samettian women.  Rather than being killed, they are thanked cordially and allowed to go back to their lives.  And more and more, any boys born to Samettian women--few though their numbers may be--are no longer euthanized, but instead fostered to families outside of the community.

Despite this gradual softening of the harder edges of Samettian society, it is still a harsh place, and one that is whispered about with fear and awe by those who live outside of its borders.

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