Category Archives: Peoples

Church of Three Sisters

The Church of Three Sisters is a major religious institution headquartered in Dupho. Their healers are renowned for their skill.


The Church of Three Sisters began as a cult that worshiped Seawind, a woman from the Children of Knowledge who healed people by manipulating elemental Life.

Early Years

After Seawind’s death in 608, the Cult of Seawind began expanding along the coast, looking for new healing techniques. Seawind had taught them how to manipulate elemental Life, but they were also interested in mundane techniques and in requests for divine guidance.

Many members would call on Seawind for miraculous healing and some stories suggest that on more than one occasion, their prayers were answered.

The cult was successful enough to become a church, with its legitimacy recognized by giving it a role in the governments of the two republics on the coast.

As the church grew, their studies became more intense and their healing techniques became more advanced. Although Children of Beauty do not usually have an affinity for Life magic, the Church of Seawind was able to teach people how to use even a weak affinity. Even healers with no affinity were welcome, if they were willing to constantly push themselves toward learning new techniques.

The Reformation

Religion has always been important to the Children of Beauty. The artists look to their religious institutions to guide them, and they expect churches to play a central role in government.

The Church of Seawind, though respectable and successful, suffered from the fact that the object of their devotion had been a mortal. Non-adherents felt that they were a cult, not a church.

In 932, the clergy found an ingenious solution to this problem. They observed that all their healing techniques could be categorized as magical, miraculous, or natural. They said the magical techniques came ultimately from the Goddess of Knowledge, because Seawind was her child. The miraculous techniques came from the Goddess of the Sun, because she was the religious authority over all the deities. And the natural techniques came from the Goddess of Beauty, because they had obviously been known to Children of Beauty since entering the world.

Thus the church stopped emphasizing worship of Seawind and began to portray her as a messenger from three Goddesses. It was these goddesses that people would worship from then on. They became the Church of Three Sisters.

Under The Theocratic Empire

In 1084, the Theocratic Republic conquered the Republic of Dupho, putting the region under the control of the Theocratic Empire of Beauty.

The Theocratic Empire had no tolerance for other churches, and the Church of Three Sisters was driven out of Dupho.

In 1311, the time of The Artificer of Dupho, the Church of Three Sisters has returned to the province and built an inspiring temple on a hill above the city. The church’s influence is spreading throughout all lands where Children of Beauty live.

The Church of Beauty will tolerate them as long as they do not interfere with government and do not challenge the authority of the Church of Beauty.

The Seminary

The Seminary was the second educational institution founded in Hicho (and probably second in the world, as well). In The Artificer of Dupho, Higomu is a graduate of the Seminary.


Followers of Weaver sought to make Children of Knowledge aware that people had a responsibility to all the deities.

At the time, the dominant idea was that Children of Knowledge only needed to serve Knowledge. As long as they preserved knowledge that would be necessary to defeat the demons, they were doing their part.

In particular, they did not believe that any of their descendents would be called upon to physically fight invading demonic forces. The followers of Weaver maintained that knowledge of hand-to-hand combat was important for everyone. They said Children of Knowledge should not rely on Lith’s Children to do all the fighting. Every people would have to do their share.

People who served other deities (they were a minority, but they did exist) seized on this idea and suggested that it might be a general principle. Every people had something useful to contribute in the war against the demons, but Hicho and the Redwood River Valley had only Children of Knowledge. Surely they would need warriors if the demons attacked. And they would also need merchants to move supplies, judges to tell right from wrong, religious leaders to guide them, laborers to build the infrastructure, etc. They would still be Children of Knowledge, but they needed to learn that every deity has something to teach.


In 902, the Seminary was founded by a council of 9 priests, one from each deity. Their goal was to provide alternative paths to serving the deities and to advance knowledge about each of the deities individually.

Course of Study

Study at the Seminary is in many ways similar to study at the Academy.

The first 2 years at the Seminary are mortar years. Students fill in the cracks in their basic education and they also build a firm foundation in theology.

After the mortar years, the student is expected to choose a practical discipline, a secondary pure discipline, and a primary deity. The student’s primary pure discipline is assumed to be theology.

The seminary is divided into 9 schools, one for each deity. Even in later years, students are encouraged to study outside their school. Many students choose a secondary deity.


Not all graduates go on to become priests. (Or priest-equivalents. “Priest” is a generic term that does not accurately capture the various roles of divine intermediaries in Edgewhen’s various cultures.)

A Child of Knowledge who serves another deity is most likely a graduate of the Seminary. But Knowledge’s ritesmasters are more often graduates of the Academy, although Seminary graduates form a large minority.
Seminary graduates are especially knowledgeable about demonology and cosmology.

The Academy

When Children of Knowledge say “The Academy”, they always mean the academy in Hicho, the first educational institution in the world.


The Academy began as a common school for all children in the village of Hicho. As the city grew, the Academy expanded.

As the Children of Knowledge spread over the farmland, it became impractical to send students to the Academy every day. The Academy became a boarding school for children ages 18 to 27. (Among Children of Knowledge, people are not recognized as mature adults until they graduate.)

Children ages 9 to 18 now go to a school within walking distance.


The first 2 years are mortar years. Students fill in any cracks in their education and become accustomed to Academy life.

Then students have 5 years of focus study. Each student must choose 3 disciplines: 1 pure science, 1 craft or trade, and 1 food-producing activity.

The final 2 years are spent in independent research which usually emphasizes one of the three disciplines. Because young people are expected to find mates at this time, there are also many social activities.

Food Production

The Academy is able to feed its students and faculty because it produces its own food. In fact, it produces excess food, which is sold to raise funds for building projects and faculty expenditures.

Students work on Academy farms and fishing boats as part of their tuition. Food production occupies enough of students’ time that it takes them 9 years to complete what would be in our world a 4-year undergraduate education. (Even so, they are the most educated people in the world. Most other cultures don’t even have elementary schools.)

In the early days, everyone was expected to go to the Academy and so it seemed reasonable to expect everyone to produce food. By 1311 (The Artificer of Dupho) Hicho has reached a size where it relies on the agricultural communities of the Redwood River Valley to support its population, but the tradition of food production persists.

Role of the Academy in Society

The Academy takes on many functions that we might expect a government to perform.

The Academy mints coins. Each coin represents the amount of money it would take to keep a student at the Academy for a certain amount of time. For example, the thozi is a coin that could theoretically cover one day of study at the Academy.

The Academy codifies laws. A faculty council reviews customs and judicial rulings. From these, the council deduces basic legal principles, which are then published as the standard for all Children of Knowledge. This is not quite the same as making laws, but it is close.

The Academy graduates judges, who are then empowered to judge disputes.

But most importantly, the Academy sets educational standards which are followed by all educational institutions of the Children of Knowledge.

No Longer the Only Game In Town

Eventually the population grew too big and it was no longer feasible for every student to study at the Hicho Academy. Other educational institutions were authorized.

Since 1217, apprenticeships have been recognized as a substitute for academy-style learning.

River Law

The events in The Dragonslayer of Edgewhen take place in 1002. At that time, situation is as follows:

Ports on the Yarl River System

The Clanfolk control all the busiest ports on the Yarl. They have an outpost at Dashar on a river that eventually feeds into the Kailanarl and then to Brin. They are also building a presence on the delta where the Yarl empties into the Sunward Sea.

Children of Justice have a stronger presence at the delta and their trade routes extend all through the Sunward Sea. But these Children of Justice are civilized “Bluefolk”. Their culture is different from that of the “Riverfolk”, who live a nomadic life on the system of rivers accessible from the Yarl.

Civilized Stripedfolk have some ports on the Yarl, but much of their trade is focused inward. (These are the plow-people along the Dothedarl, whom Summerwind scorns.)

The laws of the river have been set by the Clanfolk, because they have the most ports.

Boat Branding

The Clanfolk love trade agreements. Or even disagreements, if they provide something to bargain over.
Each city-state has tariffs and dock fees to protect local merchants. And each city-state has agreements with certain trading partners that provide special exemptions to these fees and tariffs. In order to tell whether a merchant qualifies for an exemption, the dockmaster has to know where the merchant is from.

Clanfolk do not have passports. It is very easy for them to lie about where they are from. But the boats do not lie. Because the prow of the boat is branded.

Under river law, a boat marked by a city’s brand is entitled to all the benefits of a trade agreement negotiated with that city. In theory, the merchant and his goods should be from the same city-state as the boat. (In practice, the merchant just needs to pay a commission or fee to a cousin who lives in that city-state.)

Boat Painting

Once brands were in wide use, river travelers began using them for identification on the river. But the brand in the wood was difficult to see. So boats began adding a larger, painted mark. This enabled merchants to identify a boat’s city-state at a distance.

Once painted marks became wide-spread, it did not take long for merchants to start marking their boats with clan symbols as well. These were even more useful: A merchant from the same city might be a friend or he might be a rival, but a merchant from the same clan is always a cousin.

In 1002, the clan mark is the most visible from a distance, but city marks are still painted on some boats, by tradition. Neither of these marks is required. The dockmaster is concerned only with the city brand.

Accidents, Aid, and Abandonment

Boats sometimes run aground on sandbars or snag on submerged trees. People sometimes fall off their boat into the river. Under River Law, a boat must give aid to a boat or person in distress, unless such aid would put the rescuing boat in jeopardy.

An abandoned boat and its cargo still belong to the owner if the brands are visible. An owner can voluntarily relinquish his claim by obliterating any visible brands. This is usually accomplished by painting them with tar. Hence the expression “to tar the brand” which means “to give up”.

Cargo outside a boat is fair game, as is anything that can be salvaged from a boat whose brands are submerged.

Flamebringer Music

In The Dragonslayer of Brin, Zhen refers to several types of music:


Riverfolk tend to play in 5-tone, which we know as the pentatonic. If you want to hear how this sounds on your piano, just play the black keys.


The song about the nine elements is in 9-tone. In the Olden Time, 9-tone was probably played with 9 equal notes and would have sounded even weirder than what Zhen thinks of as 9-tone.

To play 9-tone on the piano, use all the white keys plus B-flat and E-flat. My research suggests that this might be known as C Raga Ramdasi Malhar.

Normal Music

Because these two are unusual to Zhen, there must be something else that sounds normal. This is probably the 7-note scales that we are used to in Western musical tradition. (I know, we play eight-note scales, but note number 8 is one octave above note number 1, so they are kind of the same note. We only use 7 letter names: A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.)

Zhen’s people distinguish between major and minor modes, and they probably recognize all the other modes as well.


I’m hoping someone will invent blues scales in Edgewhen. I don’t think they are recognized in 1002.


Flamebringers play flutes, lutes, or drums. Everyone knows how to sing.


Because Lashrefi’s dominant elements include Air and Motion, Lashrefi’s people tend to be talented at manipulating sound. A skilled kalaibo can control the sounds of the entire band, raising the volume of some instruments and quieting others to achieve better balance.

Individual performers can use magic to modulate their instruments’ sounds. I’m not saying you should expect rock-guitar distortion or wa-wa pedal effects. Their special effects will still sound like acoustic instruments … just really weird acoustic instruments.

Flamebringer Marriage

Gender Roles

Not all roles among the Flamebringers are divided according to gender, and when they are divided, the divisions are not always strict. For example, all young men are expected to hunt, but young women are allowed to hunt, too. Men can cook and forage, but women are expected to do so.

But when it comes to horses and lodges, the gender divisions are strict.


Only men can own horses. A man is expected to provide horses for his wife and all his unmarried daughters. If his brother dies, he must provide horses for his brother’s wife and children as well.

Only women can own lodges. Daughters make their own lodges when they are ready to marry. Sons sleep in the lodge until they are old enough to be scouts. Then they must sleep outside (at least in summer) until they marry.

Courtship Hair

At the spring and autumn gatherings, young women who are ready to marry wear their hair in a certain way. Those who wish to stay in their band wear one braid on the left side. Those who wish to leave wear one braid on the right side. A woman with two braids is signaling that she is willing to leave her band or to stay.

One tale tells of a girl who cut her sister’s hair while she was sleeping, either so that her sister could not leave or so that her sister could not stay, depending on who tells the story.

A woman can indicate that she has her own lodge by tying the braid up in a loop. Those with looped braids are deemed most serious about marriage, but that does not stop young men from courting the others.

A woman who has her heart set on a certain young man may wear a single braid down the back to ward off other suitors and loop the end to indicate that she hopes to be married by the end of the gathering. Some women, however, will continue to wear the two looped braids, as an indication that the young man should hurry up and make his claim more permanent.

Spring Marriages

By tradition, the spring gathering is a time for flirtation and courtship. Young people who feel especially serious about each other may ask their parents for a “spring marriage”. This is a six-month trial marriage during which they can discover if they are making the right decision about whom to marry and which band to travel with.

Autumn Marriages

Marriages at the autumn gathering are considered permanent.


Even an autumn marriage can be ended if things are not working out, however. To effect a divorce, the wife simply puts her husband’s belongings outside the lodge. Women can only divorce in the summer (between spring and autumn meetings) because they are obligated to provide a lodge in winter. Similarly, men can only divorce (remove belongings from the village house) in winter, because they are obligated to provide horses in summer.

A “blue moon divorce” is when the husband divorces shortly before the village packs up to move to the spring gathering. This is technically legal, but the taishrefis frown on it, because it leaves the woman with little time to acquire a horse from her male relatives. A man who abandons a woman in this way will be unlikely to find a taishrefi who will perform rites for a new marriage.


The Dragonslayer of Edgewhen introduces many customs of the Flamebringer Tribe. This is the tribe of Lashrefites who live closest to the Yarl.


The tribe is broken into multiple bands. A band is named for its gethrav.

The gethrav is the band’s leader. He is always male. He decides where the band should go, where they will hunt, and how they should hunt. But a wise gethrav makes all these decisions after consulting the taishrefi.

The taishrefi is the band’s priestess. She is always female. Her job is to remind people how they should behave toward each other. The taishrefi is in direct contact with Lashrefi, goddess of luck.

Each band also has a kalaibo. A kalaibo can be male or female. Some bands have one of each. The kalaibo’s job is to the lead the singing. Flamebringers sing while they travel and at dusk in camp every night. The kalaibo chooses the songs and decides whether group singing or individual performance is called for.

All positions are for life, although kalaibos usually pass their position on long before they die. If a kalaibo dies unexpectedly, his or her successor is chosen by the gethrav and the taishrefi. A taishrefi usually designates her own successor before she dies. This successor usually comes from a different band. A gethrav does not choose his own successor. The choice is made by the taishrefi after consulting with Lashrefi.

All the Flamebringer bands gather together twice a year: in the spring, when they come out of the villages and in the fall, when they are ready to return.

Spring Gathering

All babies that have survived the winter get named during the spring gathering.

Taishrefis decide what part of the range should get burned and send people out to do so.


Bands travel the prairie during the summer. Each band has its own range. Ranges do overlap, but they are coordinated so that two bands will not be in the same place at the same time.

Autumn Gathering

People who have lived fifteen summers get to choose their own names at the autumn gathering. From then on, the tribe will call them by their autumn names.

Within the band, however, spring names or autumn names may be used. The spring name denotes affection and the autumn name denotes respect.


The Flamebringers spend winters in villages along the river Dothedarl. In the Olden Time, some people decided to stay in the villages over the summer, too. These people became farmers. Or “plow people” as Summerwind calls them.

Some bands join villages that have been inhabited all summer. Other bands have special places that the civilized Lashrefites leave unoccupied.

Generally, each Flamebringer village will have two or more bands.


At the time of The Dragonslayer of Edgewhen, the Clanfolk are organized into 40 clans.

Clans and City-States

Clans cross state boundaries. For example, Walkers may be found in Dwen-Tarthil and in Dwen-Brin.

But not every clan can be found in every state. Dwen-Tarthil has 30 clans, but Dwen-Brin has only 9. Clan Broadfield, for example, is in Dwen-Tarthil, but not Dwen-Brin.

Dwen-Taleshi and Dwen-Yarvethi, the oldest city-states, have all 40 clans, but the others are more exclusive, ranging from 30 in Dwen-Tarthil to 5 in Dashar.

Except for Dwen-Taleshi, every city-state began as a colony. A colony generally has to exist for a century or two before the mother state will grant it independence. Even without independence, clans in a colony can negotiate for the right to keep other clans out. Recognition of exclusivity is a crucial step in the process to independence. It is an occasion for much deal making.

Expanding into a new colony is beneficial because it gives a clan a broader trade network. Clans Houser and Goodharvest have land in 9 city-states. On the other hand, some clans believe that colonization diminishes their power in the mother state. Clan Coldspring has land in only 4 city-states.

Although city-states do struggle against each other economically, they are always able to resolve territorial disputes peacefully. Most clans have cousins on both sides of any interstate dispute.

Clan Identification

Each clan has certain marks that only cousins may use. The clan symbol may be worn as a brooch on a traveling cloak or it may be painted on a river boat.

A clan also has lore of secret symbols, signs, and countersigns that they can use to verify that a stranger is a cousin, entitled to the hospitality of the clan. Of course, very few Clanfolk would be so dishonest as to misrepresent their clan, but “very few” does not mean “zero”.

Livestock are marked by hiring a beastshaper to magically alter the animal’s color in the womb. All females are marked, as are any males kept for breeding stock. Gelded animals may be marked or unmarked.

Land, Livestock, and Seedstock

Land, Livestock, and Seedstock are owned by the clan. “Stock” means anything that can reproduce. If a farmer grinds grain into flour, it is his to sell, but if he keeps seeds for planting, they are part of the clan’s seedstock. Similarly, only unmarked gelded animals can be sold to another clan.

In practice, people do own their stock and they can sell marked animals and viable seeds to their cousins. But in theory, the clan can take stock and even land from one family and give it to another. For example, no household would be allowed to claim more land than they could work.

Clan Hospitality

Cousins can always expect to stay at a cousin’s house without paying. In larger settlements, it is considered polite to visit the clan house, instead. The clan house functions as a free inn for members of the clan. (That is why Brin, with only 9 clan houses and many foreign merchants, has many inns, while Tarthil, with 30 clan houses, has few inns.)

Free hospitality, in most clans, extends for only one night. A cousin is welcome to stay longer, but he would be expected to work all day. For most merchants, this arrangement is impractical, unless they have nothing better to do while waiting for a particular shipment to arrive.

Cousins tend to give each other discounts and favorable deals.

Names from Lashrefi

When Lashrefi created her language, she set aside 81 words as names for her people.

According to the Lashrefites, these names belong only to the 81. The name “Bethi” can only refer to the woman with a raccoon-like mask who was among the first Lashrefites that first set foot on the plains of the world. In The Dragonslayer of Edgewhen, it is a bit shocking for Summerwind Dawnracer to learn that her brother has started calling himself “Zhen”.

The Clanfolk think it is silly to name people after things. A woman should have a respectable woman’s name, like “Bethi”. (If you’ve forgotten why the Clanfolk and the Lashrefites speak the same language, go back and read the article on Linguigenesis.) People shouldn’t be named after wind or trees. Their language has these perfectly suitable names, and it would be wasteful to not re-use them.

This situation has an obvious parallel in our world, so I’ll mention it: In some cultures, it would be blasphemous to name a child “Jesus”. In other cultures, it’s a sign of religious devotion. Of course, the analogy is not exact. The exact analogy would be a culture that thought it was weird to name children after Adam and Eve.

Anyway, because the Clanfolk insist on re-using the original names, they only have 40 names for girls and 41 for boys. To distinguish two people with the same name, the Clanfolk add various endings to the name. Bethi, for example, could be called “Bethinesi” or “Bethwin”. Certain endings become popular in certain regions, so it is sometimes possible to guess a person’s origin if you know the ending of his or her nickname. The names “Danwel” and “Kethwin”, for example, are more common in Dwen-Tarthil than in Dwen-Taleshi, where they might be called “Danarm” and “Kethethi”. Other endings are more universal. A “Danim” or a “Kethefi” might be from anywhere.

The Worker People use a mix of names. So a girl could be named either “Zefi” or “Stone” and no one would think the name was odd.

It’s not clear if Redfolk use Lashrefi’s names or not. Their words are often so different from the words used by Clanfolk and Lashrefites that it is hard to see the dialects’ common origin.