Oswean

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A scattered people of mysterious origins, the Osweans tend to be a wandering, nomadic folk and rarely settle any significant towns or cities. Many seek shelter in dark places such as caves and deep forests, coming out under the open sky only at night - for one of the most prominent beliefs of the Osweans is that the sun is the eye of a great malevolent Archdaemon. Most Osweans live in the northern regions of the known world, many mingling with the Albans despite suffering a social status lower even than the Lowborn in that kingdom.

While numerous and scattered with many varying subcultures among them, all those of Oswean blood are easily identified by their light skin and hair, as well as their eyes of green and blue. They tend to be shorter than Khalidans and Albans, and many question whether they come from the same root people, instead speculating that the Osweans developed completely independently from some similar but separate ancestral stock. Some (particularly Albans) go so far as to speculate that Osweans may be a product of breeding between humans and daemons - likely due to the Oweans' typical aversion to sunlight - but such speculations are rarely seriously entertained.

Shared Cultural Traits

While the many and varied Oswean subcultures all have their own unique characteristics, there are some prominent traits shared by nearly all Oswean peoples.

  • Nomadism: The vast majority of Osweans are nomadic, even when the practice is not necessary. The idea that they are a constantly wandering people is integral to their culture, forever searching for Osweald, their lost homeland. The few that do settle down tend to do so in relatively impermanent ways, leaving little lasting impact on the area and always capable of leaving at a moment's notice. Permanent Oswean towns or cities are rare, though it is not uncommon for groups to take up temporary residence within the population centers of other cultures, and some of these areas can seem to almost be taken over as groups of Osweans cycle through - sometimes to the chagrin of the host culture.
  • Aversion to Daylight: While the severity varies from group to group, virtually all Osweans have some level of aversion to daylight, many preferring instead to stick to subterranean or at least shaded areas, such as dense forests, when possible - some may even live largely nocturnal lifestyles. This is perhaps partially why Osweans prefer to travel in their famous enclosed, or at least covered, wagons. This aversion seems to stem from the common Oswean belief that the Sun is the eye of a great Archdaemon, its gaze bringing, at the very least, bad luck. Some scholars speculate the aversion may have originated due to the fact that the fairer skin of Osweans suffers sunburns relatively quickly, and posit that the myth of the Archdaemon's Eye sprung from that to accompany the resulting sunlight aversion. Whatever the case, twilight seems to be the most beloved time of day for most Osweans, and is often when their festivities, social functions, and other important activities occur.
  • Mysticism: While occultism is accepted as a reality by all but the most skeptical, it is still a very secretive and arcane art. To the Osweans, however, the occult and the mystical are somewhat more common. Though many dismiss typical Oswean mysticism as little more than simple tricks, duplicity, and sleight of hand, it is nonetheless widely acknowledged that the Osweans have a particular command over emotions, especially through tale and song. Indeed, Oswean bards are famed for their ability to conjure such powerful emotions during their songs and storytellings that many listeners claim to be brought into a sort of trance, in which they feel they are actually experiencing the subject matter of the performances. Other mystical arts commonly practiced by Osweans include communing with nature spirits, divinations, and speaking with the dead. While Osweans tend to receive more accusations of dark occult practices than other cultures, most seem to consider sorcery a dangerous art that is better left untouched.

Great Clans

Though there are innumerable Oswean sub-clans, all are believed to be descended from one of the original three Great Clans. Clans and bloodlines are extremely important to the Osweans, being one of the few things to unite the scattered and wandering people together as one.

Anam Aonair

  • Symbol: A broken wagon wheel.

Even among the nomadic Osweans, those of the Anam Aonair are considered extraordinary wanderers. Few Osweans other than they have been willing to brave the bare, sun-scorched lands of Khalida or the vast open western seas beyond. Known for their adventurous spirit and wanderlust, members of this clan seek new frontiers and undiscovered realms. Perhaps due to their excessive wanderings, the Anam Aonair are the most likely to evolve, or even abandon, some of the older Oswean traditions. Because of this, they are sometimes viewed as outcasts by the other two Great Clans. This rarely troubles the Anam Aonair, however, as they continue to pursue new discoveries in their search not only for their fabled ancestral homeland of Osweald, but for knowledge and truth.

Ilyad Gwyl

  • Symbol: An eye encircled by a crescent moon.

The Ilyad Gwyl pride themselves on their knowledge of lore and their pursuits of the occult. They have a great love of music and dance, their performances the stuff of legend. Their beirdd, or bards, enjoy such esteem that they are often granted a measure of diplomatic immunity and are welcome virtually anywhere they go, even despite the harshest of prejudices against Osweans otherwise. The most numerous of the Great Clans, the Ilyad Gwyl are largely concentrated in and around the Great Kingdom of Alba.

Molach Troigh

  • Symbol: A crossed sword and shepherd's crook.

Both hardy and wary, the Molach Troigh tend to have little trust for outsiders. They often range about the more inhospitable lands where there is less chance of encountering foreigners, with a preference for the cold northern regions of Alba and the little-known icy lands beyond, herding great flocks of hardy large-horned sheep. Of the Oswean clans they are known to be the fiercest, quick to don their war-paint if they feel mistreated, threatened, or encroached upon. In this way they are the most territorial of the Osweans and do not suffer outsiders well, with the exception of the Albans of Roznov with whom they engage in trade and even some shared seasonal customs. The Molach Troigh have a particular reverence for spirits of nature which they often turn to for inspiration, their druids serving as spiritual guides.