The Vacids (feacthengead, “People of the Owl-Totem”) are a Kintaran people and one of the nine formally recognized constituent nations of the Kingdom of Belocharas. They dwell almost entirely on the island of Dearviél, where they make up the majority of the population south of the Dúlmeannath, and in The Twelve.
“Vacid” is a colloquial form of Vachedoi, a Belochyar word meaning “owl clan” and the official name of the tribe within the kingdom. This is closely related to Feacthengead, which means “owl-totem (or owl-stone) people” in the tribe’s ancestral language and is the name the tribe uses for itself. The Belochyar word vache is pronounced very similarly to the Vacid feacha, both meaning “owl.” Both names refer to the centrality of owls in the Vacids’ spiritual beliefs, as owls are thought to be messengers of the Sacred Ancestors and collectors of the souls of the deceased. The term “Vacid” has only been in widespread use since the tribe became a constituent nation of Belocharas.
No one knows for certain how the forebears of the Vacids arrived in Dearviél, which was said to be the home of the Fae within Fialath Meadhe (the material world), but the tribe’s own lore claims that that the first inhabitants of Dearviél were the children of the Fae queen Ilívantha and a mortal man named Gormfreith, and more Fae followed them, wooing the most desirable lovers from among sapienkind, carrying them to Dearviél and siring sons and daughters upon them. Other versions of the story say that the Fae males kidnapped women from among sapienkind, or put them under a spell to coerce them amid their fears. Most scholars dismiss these claims as fables, but believers point to the heightened extrasensory and perceptive abilities displayed in some Vacids, particularly those sworn to certain guilds, as evidence of Fae ancestry. Skeptics counter that this is not possible, as the guises worn by the Fae within the material realm prior to the downfall of Nimvë’s folk were not of Matter but merely illusions forged from their Light.
According to Vacid oral histories, the tribe can trace its heritage back to a fisherman named Prandleth, who received a visitation from a sapient owl deep in the night, speaking to him in the voice of his forefathers and instructing him to erect a feacthain (“owl-stone”, a large menhir engraved with an owl’s likeness, from which the tribe’s name is derived) on Laithen Meach, an island amid a broad section of the river Fryd Ariennes in central Dearviél said to have magical properties from the time of the Fae.
The owl perched upon a hillock at the eastern end of the island, where the voice emanating from its eyes instructed Prandleth to erect the stone, saying: “Upon this rock shalt thou build a nation.” Then, the owl regurgitated an intact seedling, perhaps even taken from glandmal of Winterborn legend, continuing: “From this seed shalt thou father a people.”
Prandleth continued receiving visitations from the Sacred Ancestors’ messengers for the next thirty years. Among their tidings was a series of customs and traditions that would henceforth govern all aspects of Vacid life. Upon receiving these codices, Prandleth called together all Vacid families, who gathered before the feacthain on Laithen Meach. There, Prandleth bestowed the title of cathbrand upon the eldest member of each family. Those cathbrainead would be tasked with the maintenance of their familial landholds and with upholding the Sacred Ancestors’ laws.
This gathering also marked the first tir-carima. Though the cathbrainead themselves held sovereign dominion over their individual landholds (effectively making them petty kings), it was decided that a central authority should be elected by the landlords to arbitrate disputes between the families and to lead the Vacid armies in times of war. This high king would come to be known as the feacharmain, or “Golden Owl.”
Though many Vacids wished for Prandleth himself to serve as their king, the founder of the nation was advanced in age, wanting nothing more than to spend his days by the riverbank in carefree bliss, fishing and singing songs of the Fae. His close friend Uileamh, landlord of the family that would come to be called Caragrinda, was chosen in his stead.
The Vacids in the Empire of Darandiné
As all written records of Daran Ravenhelm’s empire are believed to have been lost after its collapse, little is remembered of the Vacids’ affairs as the emperors’ subjects. Only a scattering of songs and legends are left to fill the void.
One tale tells that Daran visited Dearviél five years after Prandleth’s death. Upon witnessing the island’s beauty, he desired to make it not only part of his burgeoning realm but to build his capital there. The Vacids, however, were not eager to suffer the rule of a foreign conqueror. Outraged by the Vacids’ defiance, Daran chose to invade. The legends tell of a fleet so vast that, by the time all the ships were at anchor, the whole of Dearviél was surrounded by a wall of wood and silken sails. Daran even sent ships that could fly, raining fire down upon the Vacids’ spartan wooden strongholds and burning entire families alive as they cowered.
Uileamh met the Darandingaí armies at the Battle of Wyrduil, where the outnumbered Vacids fought so valiantly and slew so many of the emperor’s host that, upon capturing the Golden Owl, instead of executing him, Daran chose to honor Uileamh, allowing him to keep his title if he agreed to acknowledge the emperor’s claim over Dearviél. Thrice did Uileamh refuse, only relenting after Daran promised to grant broad autonomy to the cathbrainead.
Despite their initial resistance, the Vacids prospered under Darandingaí rule, and most Vacids look back upon their time as vassals of the empire as a Vacid Golden Age, despite the lack of any specific knowledge of what happened during that period. Some scholars even argue that Darandiné never truly existed, but rather entered stories and legends as a fable.
The Dark Years
Written records from the years immediately following the fall of Darandiné are scarce, but those that survive suggest a period of tumult that encompassed the empire’s final years and the first three centuries (by common reckoning) after its downfall. This includes the first sightings of dragons over Dearviél, fire-drakes in thralldom to the Vraçii tribe of mainland Cildana taking revenge upon the last Darandingaí emperors for their attempts to conquer that reclusive nation. (Other stories say that the dragons were ice-wyverns ridden by raiders from the Istrilad clan of Northmen, though no proof exists that any Winterborn nation had ever tamed dragons.)
Though the last fire-drakes were slain by Achyanak hawkriders in the years immediately following Darandiné’s fall, and the dragons wrought relatively light destruction upon Dearviél as compared to the mainland, focusing their firepower mostly against the emperors and their fortifications and leaving the Vacid people and their holdings largely unscathed, new dangers emerged even after the last War in the Aether.
Invasions from the North
With the withdrawal of the Darandingaí armies came a surge of raids from the people known by the Vacids as eiradengead, or “Snow-people” (sometimes translated poetically as “Winterborn”). The first raids by these Northmen, sailing mostly from northern Cildana but also occasionally from Stenvandë, were small at first, consisting of small fleets of drakkars with only a few dozen lightly-armed men. But they often took the Vacids unawares, sailing up even tributaries of Fryd Ariennes and Fryd Nimearas at speed, looting valuables and livestock and causing much panic and bloodshed wherever they went.
These initial successes, together with the reports of Dearviél’s bountiful lands and rivers, compelled northern karls to launch larger raids. These met with similar success, and in approximately T.D. 115, Northmen from six mainland clans launched a full-scale invasion of Dearviél. But the Vacids, alarmed by the constant raids, had by now expected this. In the years since the first raid, the high king, Heangan Hemhardea, had encouraged the cathbrainead with landholds along the eastern coastal regions to construct fortifications. One such fortress was Cúiganchea, seat of Cathanda Dolgaisa, at the mouth of Fryd Ariennes, where the Golden Owl predicted the Northmen would land. His guess proved correct, and the invasion was repelled with heavy losses to the Northmen.
Five years later, another force sailed for Dearviél; this was smaller than the first, but consisted of around three thousand longships loaded with not only fighting men and women but families hoping to settle and farm the more fertile lands of the island. Though battles were fought all along the island’s east coast, each won by the defenders, these were all feints, as the main force, led by Karl Guthnar Gornmarni of the Ulvic clan, landed in the inhospitable region north of the Dúlmeannath, carrying their ships through the dense forests and into the mountains for a month before they reached the Fryd Ariennes headwaters, from there moving south at speed. While scouting the land, one captain came upon a lake in the shape of a volant swan, which he named Innis Tivien (“Swan Lake”) and took as a sign from the gods that the land was sacred.
The first landholds to be sacked were those belonging to the families Breandarga and Eindearsca, whose lands bordered the river. The Therecoi families Atya and Siska were also attacked, though a few Therecoi allied themselves with the invaders, which some Vacids cite as reason for their distrust and even disdain for the Therecoi. Cathanda Eindearsca’s forces were augmented by those of the family Inamhra, whose fortress of Fennadh aí-Lauda was hastily constructed after the initial assault on the Eindearsca landhold was pushed back (this was replaced by a larger and stronger fortification of the same name a century later).
Within a year, the Northmen had established a power base in Dearviél. Those cathbrainead who could not withstand the Winterborn onslaught were killed or exiled—though many chose to swear fealty to the new masters of the island, sparing themselves and their immediate families. Some Vacids intermarried with the Northmen, though this was seen as heresy by most, the children of said marriages being derided as mongrels and half-human.
The Northmen’s presence in Dearviél was not without benefit, as it led to increased trade with the clans of the mainland and Stenvandë. Ulgrun Sivorni, who had declared himself high king of the Vacids in ignorance of the decidedly limited role of said king in Vacid politics, oversaw the construction of Linnot Annavian, completed in T.D. 135 and providing a much-needed defensive presence in the sparsely populated swamplands bordering the Bay of Himilorn. He also reinforced several of the coastal fortifications, which would be reoccupied by the cathbrainead in later years.
In T.D. 150, a confederation of Vacid families was established in secret to mount a resistance against the Northmen. Representatives from most families met at the ringfort of Cathanda Leamhachartha, one of the most inaccessible Vacid landholds, to discuss strategy and elect leaders. This council would come to be known as the Midnight Roost. Dearan, Cathbrand aí-Caragrindaí was elected Golden Owl and commander of the Vacid army. A thirty-year campaign ensued, with great loss of life and property on both sides, but the Vacids secured a strategic victory. The Vacids would retake control of the lands south of the Dúlmeannath; any Northmen who stayed behind would be subject to the laws of the Golden Owl and the edicts of the cathbrand of the landhold on which they dwelt. The Northmen would be given the region north of the Dúlmeannath, which would come to be called Gamhranda, the Winterland, in the Vacid tongue.
As the years passed, relations between the Vacids and Northmen would thaw, until a formal alliance between Dearan and Karl Valen Sithyrni was made in T.D. 255—just as a new threat was arriving on Dearviél’s shores.
Invasions from the East
In T.D. 225, nomads from the Khadagan began raiding the Kintaran tribes of western Cildana. These raids proved disastrous as the tribes were ill-equipped to fight against the riders from the steppe, whose smash-and-grab tactics often left entire villages in flames before the townspeople could even raise the alarm. The Belochyar, in particular, suffered great loss of life in these raids. Beginning in around T.D. 250, several chieftains elected to sail to Dearviél and seek refuge with the Vacids, with whom they shared an ancestry as descendants of Fionna the Fair according to both cultures’ legends.
While the Vacids did originally welcome their kin, the massive influx of foreigners who spoke a different language and worshiped the gods that the Vacids had largely come to loathe soon created friction. Furthermore, while many mainlanders did indeed come to Dearviél as refugees, others still had more martial intentions, as they believed that their ancestor, Sacathar son of Mokan, had been exiled from Dearviél and had a birthright to the island. The Belochyar leaders were loath to accept submission to Vacid landlords, and the cathbrainead were reluctant to relinquish any of their power. The high kings attempted to intervene to settle disputes, but their authority was roundly rejected by the newcomers.
Simmering tensions led to all-out war in T.D. 283 when a young Vacid woman, daughter to the contych (mayor) of the small independent village of Úlnadóth, on the borders of the Fiolamha estate, refused to marry a Belochyar chieftain who desired her. Perhaps not understanding the greater rights afforded to women under Vacid law, or perhaps not caring, the chieftain threatened to burn the entire town to the ground. The contych could summon only a handful of lawkeepers to his service, meager opposition to even a small army. Instead of seeking help from any of the local cathbrainead, he hired a company of Winterborn mercenaries, and the Battle of Úlnadóth commenced, leading to a pyrrhic victory for the defenders.
Further decisive engagements would be fought at Linnot Annavian in T.D. 289, where the chieftain Margamal’s ruse saw the annihilation of an entire Vacid force under Gretiwoln, Cathbrand aí-hIdearaí, and at Dúingreath in T.D. 295, in which a combined Belochyar army was routed, compelling the remaining chieftains to return to the mainland. Three years later, the Ganhar Khanate would launch an all-out assault on the Belochyar, conquering the tribe’s lands and burning the town of Haragrund. Many Belochyar would come to curse the Vacids for their banishment from Dearviél, leaving them as thralls to a brutal oppressor from the Khadagan for over two hundred years with nowhere to flee.
With the Belochyar occupation came an influx of mainland ideas and customs. Some Vacids, enamored with these ideas and wishing for a more harmonious existence with their kin, began to adopt the ways, beliefs, and language of the Belochyar. Among these was Floghain Luachmathea, the sixth son of the Cathbrand aí-Luachmathengaí. Floghain was most drawn to the Belochyar’s lack of any ruling class (though, in truth, Belochyar society on the mainland was just as stratified as that in Dearviél, if not more so) and love for the gods, whom Vacids mostly shunned in favor of ancestor worship. He adopted the name Baranc, the Belochyar word for “humility,” and gave up his material possessions, leading the life of a pauper and nomad. Most mainstream Vacids avoided him and his small but growing group of followers, and he was dubbed Baranc the Leper by many. (He did not actually suffer from leprosy.)
Though Baranc himself remained reclusive throughout his life, his cult of followers, who called themselves Baravacids, were extremely vocal, often gathering large crowds in the towns as they launched invectives against the cathbrainead. This put them in legal trouble, as the landlords accused them of slander, a grievous offense considered a crime against one’s reputation. Few legal authorities were willing to defend the Baravacids, and many of the cult forfeited their entire anharda (honor value) through repeated speeches, thus condemning them to outlawry, meaning that they could be killed without legal repercussions.
Following the Battle of Dúingreath and the subsequent exile of the Belochyar chieftains and their armed men, most Baravacids fled to the mainland, as they had largely forgotten or eschewed the Vacid traditions and language. A small number did renounce their ways and reintegrate into Vacid society, while others sought refuge among the Therecoi, whose customs more closely resembled the Vacids but whose language was a derivative of those spoken by most mainland Kintaroi.
The Second Golden Age
While the mainland tribes suffered under the Ganhar yoke, the Vacids prospered, beginning in T.D. 303 with Golden Owl Gormfreith Eirendranga. An adventurer by nature, Gormfreith commissioned a great fleet of ships to sail west, to explore the lands of Sordana and establish trade relations with the nations there. This Great Sailing marked the first time since Darandingaí times that any communication between the major continents was established. The powerful kingdom of Darakhast, then under King Kûmakhram I, was quick to welcome the strange newcomers from the east, going so far as to gift them a small plot of land on the east coast of Sordana to use as a trading colony. This would become Thair-Caradagh, the first of The Twelve. Another enclave further down the coast was also acquired, this becoming Thair-Silbhain. The ten islands that made up the remainder of the group would follow over the next decade.
Gormfreith’s thirty-year kingship saw a number of major changes in the economy, politics, and social fabric of Dearviél. Whereas prior to his election, the Golden Owl acted primarily as a high judge and military commander, power over affairs that had previously been in the purview of the cathbrainead became consolidated under the high king. Gormfreith instituted the first instance of a currency economy since at least Darandingaí times (prior to this, the families and towns had operated on barter systems), and with it, the first codified taxation policy. The latter marked the first time that the collective families were responsible for supporting the Oakenthrone (prior to this, the Golden Owl’s own family was expected to support him/her).
In addition, the demographics of Dearviél changed, as refugees from the Kintaran tribes of mainland Cildana arrived in modest numbers, mostly Belochyar, Kirlanni, and Öreacha; the latter shared many cultural and linguistic similarities with the Vacids, perhaps being descendants of Vacids who traveled to the mainland in Darandingaí times, and were quickly assimilated into Vacid families. Some immigrants went to work as tenant or subsistence farmers on Vacid landholds, while others worked as tradespeople in the towns. Most of them, however, opted to join Gormfreith’s fleets, due in no small part to friction lingering from the earlier invasion period, and would eventually settle permanently in The Twelve.
Gormfreith was succeeded by Boirleann Borcairdna, under whose rule most local authority was returned to the cathbrainead. Boirleann continued his predecessor’s expeditions to Sordana, and even commissioned a fleet to sail to a rumored island kingdom of great wealth located somewhere south of eastern Cildana (the rumors were speaking of the Ha’oha Kingdom), though this expedition met with failure as most of the ships were lost in a typhoon and only one returned to the port of Croglóth.
The century that followed Gormfreith and Boirleann would see a period of stability and peace hitherto unknown to the Vacids. The Ganhar made no attempts to invade the island, possibly because the khans feared open water. Though trade with the mainland Kintaran tribes waxed and waned depending on the khans’ whims, relations with Darakhast, the Vorowongo kingdoms, and the Northmen of mainland Cildana and Stenvandë flourished.
Raids on the Mainland
For 150 years after the initial Ganhar conquest of the Kintaran lands of Cildana, the khans had facilitated a highly profitable (albeit heavily taxed) trade between the tribes and the mercantile states of the east. Most of this trade went through Amlakhan, then an independent trading hub under the joint protection of the various Khadagani khans. But in T.D. 435, Savaqa Khan attempted to conquer Amlakhan; he failed, but in so doing, his hordes abruptly severed the trade routes between Amlakhan and the Kintaran tribes, crippling the economies of the latter. Twenty-four years later, a great plague swept across Cildana, resulting in widespread death and starvation that disproportionately affected the Kintaran tribes, notably the Aratanni and Ornaznya, who were nearly wiped out entirely. Two chieftains, Valyeric of the Belochyar and Tondreg of the Kirlanni, sailed to Dearviél to enlist Vacid help.
The Vacids responded initially by sending a portion of their harvest to the Kirlanni stronghold of Cillavalca, but this was confiscated by the Ganhar administrators and distributed among the army. Wroth at learning of his bounty’s fate, Feargach, Cathbrand aí-Hemhardengaí gathered his warriors, sending messages to the other cathbrainead that he intended to launch a raid on the Ganhar. While most of the lords cautioned against any military action, fearing reprisals from the khans who had hitherto left the Vacids be, the heads of seven other fortified families, namely Drochdeartha, Fandoreacha, Fóhairnea, Meada, Dolgaisa, Raisa, and Feacheanga, along with warriors from several minor estates, agreed to join the raid.
The Vacid fleet, bolstered by Winterborn mercenaries, landed at Haragrund in the middle of the night, gathering a rabble of mainlanders to march alongside the ships as they sailed upriver to Cillavalca. The force set upon the Ganhar armies and supplies just after dawn nine days later, slaughtering soldiers as they awoke before finding the administrator who’d taken the harvest and beheading him.
However, the raids would turn grisly when some raiders began pillaging the town and surrounding countryside. By the time the Ganhar established a cohesive defense, Cillavalca had been burned to the ground, with much of its population, including women and children, put to the axe. Some raiders, both Vacids and Northmen, were captured by the Ganhar authorities and hanged, and the presence of the latter caused a brief and inconclusive conflict between the Ganhar and the Winterborn tribes of the mainland. The lawgiver who oversaw the executions, a Belochyar in service to the khan, used the raid to stir up enmity for the Vacids among his kinsfolk; this would later be used (in part) as a pretext for the invasion and annexation of Dearviél by King Sacatyer II of Belocharas. Among those executed was Choinmar, Cathbrand aí-Dolgaisaí, who tried to argue that his men had mistaken the townsfolk for Ganhar clansmen, perhaps unaware that the lawgiver was himself a Ganhar bureaucrat. Lord Choinmar remains the only cathbrand to die on foreign soil.
In T.D. 484, as the Ganhar Khanate was still reeling from the great plague and the myriad uprisings across its vast domain, a group of armed merchants whose caravan routes crossed the steppe came together with the intention of carving a new kingdom out of the realm’s southern territories. Savaqa Khan tried to put down the merchants’ rebellion, but his hordes were too scattered and weakened by the plague to mount a sufficient defense, and the merchants’ numbers were bolstered by mercenaries from the east—among whom, it is rumored, were sorcerers and warlocks whose dark magic sickened and maddened the khan’s horsemen. Recognizing the futility in continuing the conflict, the khan conceded the merchants’ lands, and thus was formed the nation of Khodryzh. Savaqa quickly came to rue this decision, as the mercantile state rapidly encompassed new lands—more importantly than the size of the lands annexed was their location, along the primary trade routes through the Khadagan. Within a mere year, Khodryzh’s domain reached halfway across the southern part of the steppe, with many of the khan’s subjects in that region defecting to Khodryzhe princes, who offered better pay and vast pleasures.
Then, in T.D. 487, Khodryzhe forces surrounded Amlakhan. The city’s warlord-governor capitulated without a fight, fearing mostly the warlocks in Khodryzh’s service, and Amlakhan became the capital city of Khodryzh and the central trade hub for all Cildana. Savaqa now feared that Khodryzh, whose vast and diverse population included a large and influential Kintaran minority, would seek to establish both commercial and military relations with the Kintaran tribes. This, the khan knew, would be disastrous for the khanate. To prevent any further aid to his already troublesome subjects in the west, Savaqa concentrated the bulk of his armies on the borders of the Kintaran lands, essentially blockading his own subjects.
Savaqa would not live to see the inevitable rebellion; he would die in T.D. 506 at the age of ninety-seven, leaving the realm in the hands of his hot-blooded great-nephew, Saghave. Just under two months into the new khan’s reign, his mettle would be tested by an alliance of Kintaran and Khadagani tribesmen, led by the Belochyar chieftain Amandric Yerevolos. Six years of hard and bloody fighting would ensue before the Kingdom of Belocharas was officially established—and the Vacids would be instrumental in earning the realm its freedom.
Vacids in the Kingdom of Belocharas
Throughout the first years of Amandric’s rebellion, many Vacids went to the mainland as mercenaries to fight against the Ganhar Khanate, but neither the cathbrainead nor the Golden Owl led any meaningful military exploits. This changed in T.D. 512, when Amandric sent word to the Vacid high king, Hamath Eirendranga, pleading for aid as the Kintaran forces had split the khan’s armies and were mustering for one final assault at the Forks of the Celedoz to drive the Ganhar armies to the sea. Amandric knew, however, that the khan’s defeated armies would regroup and gain reinforcements, and that his rear and flanks would be vulnerable.
Invoking his war powers, Hamath gathered the cathbrainead at Laithen Meach, requesting a force of five thousand men to sail to the mainland and reinforce Amandric. The lords gathered an even greater force than the Golden Owl had requisitioned, numbering nearly seven thousand Vacids, plus a few hundred Northmen fighting as mercenaries. Hamath believed that the Ganhar would expect an attack up the Celedoz, so he landed his ships three days’ march north of Haragrund. With the help of local guides, he found the mouth of a much smaller river called Vali-Odra, which was left undefended as the khan deemed it too narrow and shallow for any ships. But Vacid ships’ shallow drafts made them ideal for navigating the river (though they had to be portaged over several rapids, with the locals’ help).
Amandric was declared king of the new realm of Belocharas the morning of the battle, but he died in combat shortly after his impromptu coronation. With the allied Baçu-Kurgin cavalry drawn off in a strategic feint, the Kintaran army was surrounded and nearly defeated. That was when Hamath had sprung his two-pronged trap. Half of the Vacid force—including the elite Storm Owls (not to be confused with the later rebel group with the same name)—took the khan’s men from both flanks, causing their ranks to break into disarray, with many scurrying back to their encampments. When they arrived, they found their camps overrun by the rest of Hamath’s forces, their supplies looted and their camp followers slaughtered. The Ganhar leader fought bravely, but was killed by Amandric’s young squire, Sacatyer Sacathrion, who would be gifted the crown after the battle and found the Sacatid Line, who have ruled Belocharas ever since. Sacatyer, who dubbed Hamath hayacul (“Iron King”), declared an everlasting friendship between the people of the white roots and those of the owl totem. Witnesses to the battle would recount the strange scene of the aging Golden Owl, then sixty-eight in years, embracing the fifteen-year-old squire-turned-king.
The relationship between Belocharas and the Vacids was amiable for the better part of Sacatyer I’s reign, though the decentralized nature of Vacid politics often flummoxed and frustrated the young king. Despite his admiration for the Vacids’ aid in earning Belocharas its freedom, Sacatyer I visited Dearviél only once during his thirty-three-year reign, though he did entertain Vacid envoys frequently.
Annexation of Dearviél
Sacatyer I died on 11 Fandrain 545, leaving his son, also named Sacatyer, as his heir. Sacatyer II saw the Vacids of Dearviél as natural allies to the mainland tribes, especially the Belochyar, as both claimed descent from the legendary heroine Fionna (who is called Iteline in the Belochyar tongue). Unfortunately, Sacatyer failed to understand that the Vacids’ telling of the tale is quite different from the Belochyar version—notably in that, in the Vacid stories, Mokan abducted and raped Fionna, whereas in the Belochyar tale, Mokan was her secret lover. The proliferation of the story left some (but by no means all) Vacids with a measure of distrust for their mainland kin, as well as many Belochyar resentful of the exile of Sacathar’s folk.
Sacatyer II learned of this lingering enmity the hard way when he launched an “expeditionary party” to Dearviél a year into his reign. Thirty years old at his coronation, Sacatyer II was already a well-learned man and a proponent of education, leading to him earning the epithet of Sacatyer the Vivifier. He was particularly lured by his father’s tales of the Vacid guilds, and hoped to enlist them to share their knowledge with his own people. Sacatyer made the mistake of assembling a fleet of twenty ships, mostly carrying craftsmen, farmers, shamans, and medics hoping to be trained, but also a number of armed men as a precautionary measure. Though Sacatyer had sent word to the Golden Owl, Eachwan Fandoreacha, to inform him of the expedition, the Vacid king failed to notify all the cathbrainead, and when the ships approached Cúiganchea, the Cathbrand aí-Dolgaisaí hastily organized a defense, assuming the Belocharan party to be an invasion force. The Vacids attacked the ships with arrow fire and trebuchets as they approached the mouth of Fryd Ariennes; the latter were highly inaccurate, but the archers found their marks to devastating effect.
Eventually, Sacatyer was able to reach Bainwoln, Cathbrand aí-Dolgaisaí, for parlay. The king’s squire recalled the meeting between the two men, and how, despite Sacatyer’s attempts at reasoning, Lord Bainwoln would have none of it. “Do you think we have forgotten Margamal’s treachery?” the cathbrand said. To which Sacatyer, now irate, replied: “No more than we have forgotten the rape of Cillavalca.” Sacatyer withdrew from the meeting before Bainwoln could reply, setting sail back to the mainland, his ships’ decks slick with his people’s blood.
Three years later, Sacatyer II would return to Dearviél—this time with an invasion force of three hundred ships. As with the chieftains of earlier times, he’d used the exile of Sacathar, the king’s ancestor (allegedly), to stir up support for his campaign among his Belochyar subjects. Instead of sailing up Fryd Ariennes, whose mouth was defended by the fortresses of Cúiganchea and Carmateach, Sacatyer sailed around the island’s south coast, landing in the wetlands between the forks of Fryd Nimearas. His armies swiftly overran the surprised forces of Cathanda Hantheanga and burned the family’s estate of Braidh-án-Eidwe.
Perhaps overcome with remorse as he watched the fortress burn, or perhaps seeing an easier path to victory by recruiting the cathbrainead to his cause rather than trying to conquer them all by force, Sacatyer swiftly decided on a change in tactics. As he moved his forces northward, he ordered his forces not to plunder any of the landlords’ estates or the towns and subsistence farms. Instead, he used his superior reasoning and rhetorical skills to turn the landlords against the Golden Owl, whom he held singularly responsible for the massacre at Cúiganchea. (It should be noted that this was the reasoning he gave to the lords; in truth, Sacatyer almost certainly knew that the Golden Owl held almost no sway over the cathbrand’s actions.) To assuage those landlords who protested Sacatyer’s assault on the Hantheangaí, he assured them that the pillaging and burning of the estate had been done against his orders, and even chose some of his own men at random to have hanged for breaking the king’s peace.
By the time his forces reached the Fandoreacha stronghold of Ótheadhuré, around half the cathbrainead, disillusioned by the Golden Owl’s impotence and perceived disinterest in his duties, had joined their forces to Sacatyer’s host. Sacatyer issued an ultimatum to Cathanda Fandoreacha: surrender the Golden Owl or suffer the same fate as the Hantheangaí. But when the family refused to hand over their patriarch, Sacatyer was left with a dilemma. If he failed to deliver on his promise, he’d be seen as weak by both the Vacids and his own men; if he followed through on his threat, however, he risked the defection of his newfound Vacid allies, many of whom were already questioning their decision to throw in their lot with the foreign king following his proclamation. In the end, Sacatyer chose a third course of action. He sent a small raiding party into the fortress in the middle of the night to kidnap the Golden Owl. At dawn, Lord Eachwan was brought before the king and his council, judged guilty of the slaughter of Belocharans, and beheaded.
Sacatyer II understood Vacid politics enough to know better than to declare himself king in Dearviél. Instead, he invited the cathbrainead of the major landholding families to gather at a place of their choosing—Laithen Meach, as it would be—to discuss the annexation of Dearviél into the Kingdom of Belocharas. Several representatives from minor families, as well as Northmen, Therecoi, and contychaí from some of the towns, also attended the gathering. The king made a reasoned case for why joining Belocharas would be a boon to the Vacids; for a modest tribute to the crown, Dearviél would enjoy a military and economic alliance with the growing kingdom and, most alluringly, access to an overland route to Khodryzh, as the passage by sea was treacherous and the threat of piracy growing by the year. The Vacids would retain a broad degree of autonomy. The cathbrainead would maintain control over the affairs of their estates, with the only stipulation being a fraction of their harvest be sent to Haragrund for distribution across the realm. There would still be a Golden Owl, who would act as the king’s representative in Dearviél. The Golden Owl, in turn, would appoint Vacids to permanent positions in Haragrund to sit on the Council of the Nine Nations and represent Vacid interests before the throne.
Though he deemed his argument sound, Sacatyer likely didn’t expect the fiercely independent Vacids, whose mistrust for the Belochyar he knew only too well, to be swayed. But to his shock, nearly all the representatives agreed to accept Sacatyer as their sovereign.
The Vacids enjoyed great prosperity under Sacatyer’s aegis. Unlike his father, the king visited Dearviél regularly, particularly enjoying the rich hunting offered by the forests north and west of Fryd Ariennes, as well as the relative peace from the bustle of Haragrund. Sacatyer passed his affection for the island on to his son and heir, Vihithric, who became king in T.D. 569. Vihithric, who changed his name to Darandric in honor (or mockery, according to his detractors) of Daran Ravenhelm, came to love Dearviél so greatly that he decided to erect his own estate on the island, to act as a part-time residence where he’d planned to spend half the year. Unfortunately for the new king, the place he chose to build his new fortress happened to be the sacred isle of Laithen Meach. Darandric was overthrown by his brother, Striboyar Elavadron, before the fortress could be completed. Vacid attempts to halt construction of the sacrilegious structure were summarily dismissed by Striboyar, who violently put down a rebellion of offended Vacids.
Reigns of Olaister and Ovradian
Tensions between the Vacids and their overlords would simmer for the next fifty years. Vacids still seethed at the fortress built upon their sacred place, which had come to be known as Cara Kotal (“Kota’s Treachery”) after an act of murder that took place during its construction. The Vacids interpreted the death of King Donimund I, who committed suicide by jumping from the fortress’s ramparts, as a sign from the Sacred Ancestors that the presence of the structure was an insult, and that, so long as the foreigners held the fort, their blessings would be withheld from the island.
When Donimund died, many influential nobles chose to back the claim of his nine-year-old nephew, Olaister, the son of the deposed Darandric, rather than those of Donimund’s closer male relations. Olaister’s mother, Jenesse, held power for the first seven years of his reign while the boy king came of age. Under her reign, the Vacids were mostly an afterthought in Belocharan politics, which saw the queen regent besieged by bickering relatives and potential usurpers all making plays for the throne. She had little time for picayune concerns about a castle on a distant island. When Olaister came of age, his first act was to purge Haragrund of all the false claimants who had so ruthlessly harangued his mother. This would prove a harbinger of his actions, at least early in his reign, toward the Vacids. During the final months of the interregnum, a Vacid rabble led an unsuccessful attempt to destroy Cara Kotal, but were caught while trying to undermine its outer walls. Not content to learn that the traitors had been executed, Olaister ordered a series of wide-ranging punishments to be enforced across Dearviél. This included the annihilation of the Vacid guilds, particularly the Storm Owls whom he most feared. They and the Grey Owls were slaughtered entirely (though some Storm Owls are known to have escaped to Arthandiné), while most Brown Owls and Horned Owls fled to Satranthia and Tionchara. The Snowy Owls would have suffered the same fate as the Grey Owls, but the men ordered to execute them were reluctant to slaughter women, ordering them instead to either leave Dearviél or renounce their vows. The secretive Black Owls were able to evade the king’s authorities.
Olaister’s reign lasted sixty-two years, earning him the epithet Olaister the Everlasting. For the Vacids, his rule was one of seemingly “everlasting” suffering, even though he loosened his grip on the island in his later years. He is remembered mostly through the lens of his grandson and successor, Ovradian, considered among Vacids (and, indeed, throughout the kingdom) as the noblest of kings. Over the course of his thirty-six-year reign, Ovradian returned most of the Vacids’ autonomy. Regarding Cara Kotal, he offered the fortress as the permanent residence of the Golden Owl, who had previously governed from his family’s estate. Though many Vacids still wanted the fortress razed, Ovradian insisted that its presence was necessary for defending the vital Fryd Ariennes, despite the fact that Craghan aí-Shallach, the fortified seat of Cathanda Drochdeartha, was just a short distance upriver. Many Vacids were somewhat assuaged when Ovradian called for a shaman to reconsecrate Laithen Meach to the Sacred Ancestors.
The Vacids prospered under Ovradian, and, though his successor, Sacatyer III, did roll back some of his reforms, that king’s reign was cut short when a hunting accident claimed his life a mere six years into his reign. Most Vacids trembled when Sacatyer’s son, named Margamal, took the throne, but the new king was a far cry from the infamous warlord who bore the same name in ages long past, restoring much of the order established under Ovradian. Under King Margamal, the Vacids enjoyed a period of relative peace and prosperity. This peace would last even after the king’s death in T.D. 726, as Dearviél’s isolation shielded the Vacids from the devastation of the War for the Hallowed Crown, as well as from the turmoil that marked the next several decades in Haragrund.
The Turbulent Century
Over the first two centuries of Belocharas’ existence, the kingdom saw a total of ten kings (eleven, if counting Amandric). Throughout the ninety-eight years following King Margamal’s death, twice as many heads bore the crown—and this number does not include the countless false claimants and would-be usurpers. This near-century would see two bloody internecine conflicts—the War for the Hallowed Crown in T.D. 726 immediately after the death of Margamal and the War for the Soiled Crown in T.D. 803—and an especially devastating period known colloquially as the Purple Tempest, a twenty-year span in which “the crown changed heads as if it were being tossed about in a storm.”
The kingdom’s problems usually did not directly affect the Vacids’ affairs, but the deterioration of trade that accompanied the royal dysfunction had a ripple effect on the island. Trade with the states of Sordana also declined, as conflict between The Twelve and Darakhast intensified and piracy (often sponsored by Darakhasi viscounts or merchants in The Twelve) wreaked havoc on the major shipping lanes.
In T.D. 778, the kingdom, still reeling from the Purple Tempest, suffered a catastrophic famine. King Sacatyer V was stoned to death and dismembered by an angry mob who accused him of delving into the dark arts (and possibly using said arts to assassinate his predecessor, Sideric) and bringing the famine upon the kingdom as the gods’ punishment for his blasphemies. Sacatyer’s successor was his uncle, Malagor, who would be called Malagor the Merciless for his punishments for even the most seemingly minor of crimes were draconian. Despite his reputation among the nations of Belocharas—most notably the Vuš Kalaiks tribe, whom he crushed in his conquest of their lands once the harvests had recovered—he is remembered somewhat fondly by the Vacids, as he enacted favorable policies toward the people of Dearviél. Malagor’s tolerant attitude toward the Vacids likely stemmed from his desire to vastly expand the Belocharan navy, and Vacid shipwrights were the most experienced in the kingdom.
Merciless though Malagor may have been, he was a man of honor; in T.D. 789, when his nephew Berestos (the son of King Sideric) came of age, Malagor made good on his pledge to give the throne to its rightful heir. Many Vacids lament Malagor’s honor, for Berestos II ruled Dearviél with an iron fist, setting up three decades of conflict between the kings and their Vacid subjects.
The Vacids experienced a brief respite between T.D. 802 and T.D. 803, which saw the execution of the deeply unpopular King Manargos followed by the short yet brutal War for the Soiled Crown. The victor of that ignominious conflict, Haudaman II, died of fever at his coronation, leaving Bolderic as king. Bolderic’s policies toward the Vacids were even more oppressive than those of Berestos II; he tripled the taxes levied upon the cathbrainead and towns and pressed Vacid peasants into his armies for what would ultimately be a failed conquest of the Ghorns. Bolderic disappeared shortly after his defeat in that campaign; some thought he died in battle, others say he went mad after losing so many of his men.
The Vacids took advantage of the empty throne, with several cathbrainead launching raids on the mainland to recover some of the coin and goods they’d been forced to send to the king’s storehouses. Tragically, many Vacids in the towns turned on their Belochyar and Kirlanni neighbors (and sometimes the Therecoi, either mistaking them for mainlanders or drumming up old grievances).
When a year passed and Bolderic still had not returned, the king was declared legally deceased, and his brother was crowned as King Belyeric II. In retaliation for the raids on the mainland, Belyeric led an assault on Dearviél in T.D. 806. This action was disastrous for the royal forces, as the bulk of the force was slain, including the king himself.
Belyeric died without an heir, with the crown passing to his distant relative, Sacatyer VI. In response to Belyeric’s death (“murder,” in Sacatyer’s own words), the king raised the harvest quotas on the Vacids to crippling levels, which would spell disaster a decade and a half later when a famine struck Dearviél. Sacatyer also instituted a crackdown on the study of the sciences in Dearviél, deeming the practice heretical and fearing that an educated Vacid populace could threaten Belocharan sovereignty over the island.
Sacatyer VI died an ignominious death four years into his reign, with his brother Lemulric continuing his predecessor’s policies. Lemulric himself ruled only five years before taking ill, allegedly after a chance encounter with a waif-like wanderer, rumored to have been King Bolderic returned from his wanderings. The youngest brother of Sacatyer and Lemulric, Donimund, assumed rule after his brother’s death. Donimund IV remains king as of T.D. 824, and while he has loosened the quotas on the Vacids substantially, the ongoing famine has increased the burden on Dearviél’s families greatly. Plans to send additional aid to Dearviél were scuttled when similar hardships afflicted the mainland. With the cathbrainead rendered impotent, a rebel calling himself “Thornfist” has assembled a rogue army to lead attacks on Belocharan interests in Dearviél, prompting heavy-handed reprisals from Vranaric Drakharion, the earl of Surulien province, whose broad authority as a Battle-Lord allows him to act largely independently of Haragrund. Thus far, Donimund has resisted calls for punitive action against the rebels using forces from the mainland.
Law and Politics
The political situation in Dearviél can be broken down into the period prior to annexation by Belocharas and after. Prior to annexation, political power was vested primarily in the cathbrand (landlord; literally “House-Master” or “House-Ruler”) of each family and the contych (mayor) of each independent town/settlement. This meant that, though the Vacids elected a high king (feacharmain, “Golden Owl”), that individual’s power was mostly limited to resolving disputes between the landholding families, who were essentially sovereign rulers. Thus, the “high king” was more of a high jurist. The exception was in times of war, invasion, or any other external threat, when a tir-carima was called and the cathbrainead bequeathed absolute power upon the high king.
After becoming part of Belocharas, the roles of the high king and cathbrainead changed, often fluctuating at the whims of the king in Haragrund. While most kings were content to leave the Vacids to govern themselves as they’d always done, the role of the Golden Owl in particular was adapted to be a representative of the king in Dearviél, and as such, royal envoys would be sent to the tir-carima to ensure that an acceptably loyal candidate was chosen. The cathbrainead themselves retain a great deal of autonomy, and are given immediate responsibility for keeping the king’s laws within their estates and gathering the taxes and quotas from their clients to be paid to the crown.
The division of Dearviél into royal provinces, overseen by earls sent from the mainland, happened in T.D. 734 under King Dovandric, who had instituted similar systems across the realm. (Dovandric’s laziness and disinterest in politics are legendary in Belocharas; he is even known to have appointed an earl to carry out the king’s responsibilities in Haragrund itself whilst he indulged in the luxuries of royal life.) The number of provinces, and thus earls, in Dearviél fluctuated between two and eight in the years since; as of T.D. 824, only two earls hold court on the island, King Donimund IV having recalled the earls in Wyrduil (called Tavankine in the Belochyar language) and Gamhranda (Hormenhare) earlier in his reign and reassigning them to the conquered Vuš Kalaiks territories. However, one of the two earls, Vranaric Drakharion of Surulien province, holds the title of Battle-Lord, giving him authority to conduct military actions independently of the king if necessary.
The practice of fostering is common among the Vacid nobility as a means to build fellowship and enhance the social bonds between families. Lesser families will often foster one or more children, usually including the cathbrand’s heir apparent, to a fortified family, with the expectation that the patron family will advocate for the fostered child’s estate in legal matters (in which their legal standing is usually higher) and come to their defense in the case of armed conflict. Fortified families also frequently offer their children to other fortified families as a means to build better relationships and enhance their children’s education. Foster children usually stay with their patron families between three and seven years, usually beginning at age seven or eight.
Vacid inheritance law is complex, and has historically led to much confusion and required frequent intervention from the legal authorities. Under typical circumstances, the position of cathbrand is handed down directly from the previous holder to his or her eldest child, be that child male or female. Marriages to cathbrainead are usually arranged well in advance of either party coming of age, though these often do not come to pass, as the ancestral laws of Prandleth give all Vacids, regardless of gender or familial status, the right to decline a marriage that they deem unsatisfactory.
While this may seem fairly straightforward, the process becomes fairly convoluted from here, especially under Belocharan rule. Under the ancestral system, the cathbrand’s siblings were given a kind of lesser lordship over parts of the estate, but the estate itself was not divided. While the Belocharan kings were content to leave that system function as it would at first, King Sacatyer III demanded a change to the laws in an attempt to both weaken the cathbrainead and to discourage landholding families from having too many children. Under his edicts, landholds were to be divided between all children of the previous cathbrand—though the legal title of cathbrand would still be held only by the oldest child of the previous lord. Beyond the landlords’ outrage at the king’s meddling in their affairs, this created a slew of problems, not least the issue of a landhold’s status when two landowners married. Under the king’s law, the more prominent family, in this case decided by the size of their estate, gained the share of the lesser family’s estate. These laws were left in place under Margamal and his successors, though they were not enforced, and the pre-Belocharan inheritance practices were reinstated, though Sacatyer’s meddling had resulted in a number of disputes between families whose landholds had been divided. The law was finally repealed under King Malagor.
Criminal law is a relatively new concept in Vacid culture. Prior to Belocharan annexation, legal matters were handled by lawsuit between families, most often arbitrated by a member of the Horned Owls, the lawyers’ guild, or, in severe cases or if legal disputes escalated too highly, the high king himself. In those times, when a member of a landowning family committed an offense against a member of another landowning family, the entire family was held responsible for the crime and were expected to contribute to the wergild, if deemed necessary. If the plaintiff did not find the wergild acceptable or if the perpetrator and his/her family refused to pay, then the perpetrator and those family members would see their anharda adversely affected. A somewhat more nuanced set of laws was introduced under high king Gormfreith Eirendranga; though justice demanded collective accountability, only the perpetrator’s anharda was affected unless his/her family attempted to interfere with the legal authorities’ decrees.
When Dearviél became part of Belocharas, the kingdom’s more progressive laws took effect, notably ablating the collective culpability standard. The kings allowed the Vacids to retain some of the more unique aspects of their laws (such as the concepts of anharda and crimes of negation) but outlawed revenge killings.
Anharda is the measure of a person’s honor, a key component in both their reputation and their legal standing. A person’s anharda increases with every noble act they perform, and decreases with every crime or ignoble act they commit. If a person’s anharda decreases to zero, that person loses all protection under Vacid law and can be killed without repercussion. The simplest way for one to nullify his/her anharda is to commit a crime of negation, which is defined as one so severe as to obliterate one’s honor entirely. Such crimes include murder (which is defined as the killing of a person for reasons other than revenge or self-defense without confession), treason, and desecration of ancestral burial sites. Crimes like manslaughter (an unjust killing in which the guilty party confesses prior to legal action being taken), rape, and animal theft may result in a severe decline in one’s honor value and demand a crippling wergild, but not outlawry by default (though those who commit these crimes usually have a low anharda already, so will likely become outlaws through those actions).
Property can be sold between landowning families, though all members of each family must agree to the sale before a lawyer. Though this ability is codified in Vacid law, it is rarely used in modern times.
Most of Dearviél is extremely fertile, so, logically, most Vacids are farmers. Farmers are considered clients of their respective landlords and fall into two groups: tenant farmers and subsistence farmers. The former are employed by the cathbrainead and work the fields that sustain the landlord’s estate, receiving both a share of the harvest and monetary payment for their services. Subsistence farmers usually occupy very small plots of land at the peripheries of a cathbrand’s estate; they are legally under the cathbrand’s protection, given the minimum that is needed to sustain their family, typically a set of rudimentary tools and a pig or goat, but, since their harvests are typically only enough to sustain the family itself, they are not required to bequeath any of that harvest to the landlord except a small, mostly token tribute paid annually. However, if the farmer cannot or refuses to pay the annual tribute, he/she is considered in debt; if too much debt is accrued, the farmer and his/her family can be evicted from the cathbrand’s land.
Because the pig or goat is often necessary to the subsistence farmer’s survival, animal theft is considered a severe offense on the grounds that stealing a subsistence farmer’s hog is essentially condemning him and his family to death. Most Vacid farmers are subsistence farmers. These tend to live in small thatch huts, or even in scalps carved out of the earth, whereas tenant farmers often live within their own modest ringfort in relatively comfortable wood-and-wicker structures.
In addition to working the landlord’s estate, tenant farmers serve as part of a cathbrand’s defense force. They are rigorously trained with weapons, patrolling the estate during peacetime and fighting under the landlord’s banner in times of war, constituting the bulk of the fighting force as most cathbrainead have only a modest retinue of housecarls as full-time fighting men, particularly those from unfortified estates. They may also be employed as unskilled laborers outside the planting and harvesting seasons. Subsistence farmers are absolved from military service, although most learn to fight in order to defend their plots (which are ostensibly under the cathbrand’s protection but, in reality, of little concern to some landlords), and many offer their sons to serve as additional patrolmen, both to earn income for the family to purchase clothes and necessities and in hopes that the cathbrand will reward the family’s loyalty.
Fishing was a major part of the Vacid economy prior to Belocharan rule, but King Sacatyer III began requiring legal permits, in the form of scrolls bearing the signature of the king’s envoy, for both freshwater and open-sea fishing. The process for obtaining these licenses was particularly onerous, resulting in most of the licenses going to mainlanders, mostly Belochyar. Stiff penalties, sometimes up to and including capital punishment, were instituted for fishing without the king’s license. Enforcement of these laws waxed and waned over the ensuing years, but was tightened under Sacatyer VI and Lemulric.
Though much of Dearviél is agrarian, the towns in particular contribute to the diverse and (usually) robust economy. Iron and especially tin, mined in the Dúlmeannath, are used in metalworking and weapons-making. Vacid embroidery is extremely popular throughout Belocharas, in Khodryzh, and even in the west; in fact, embroiderers hold an elevated position in Vacid society and are often given the same social standing as nobles. Due to the vast number of sheep in Dearviél, the production of wool is also highly popular and profitable. But the most notable trade in Dearviél is shipbuilding. The sacred guild of Brown Owls are said to be the finest shipwrights in Balad; the infusion of knowledge from the Northmen who settled in Dearviél in past centuries has only added to the Vacids’ skill, with the Brown Owls improving on the drakkars used by the Winterborn. Ship types produced by Vacid wrights include the aforementioned drakkars as well as knorrs, karves, and transport cogs.
Though the Vacids were the first to undertake overseas trade, this has largely come to a halt due to various factors, not least of which being the famine that, as of T.D. 824, has decimated Dearviél’s economy, together with the long string of ineffective kings in Haragrund who have raised import tariffs such that most in Sordana no longer see any profit in trade with the island.
The monetary system instituted under Gormfreith Eirendranga was quite simple, consisting of only two types of coin: the pór, or copper; and the arian, or silver, worth twelve pór. (Silver was introduced to Dearviél by the Northmen.) When the Vacids became part of Belocharas, the kingdom’s own currency replaced the ancestral one. This consists of the copper midan; the silver stribyan, worth ten midanot; and the gold luthyan, worth five stribyanot. The latter are usually only held by nobles. Vacid coins are still accepted in most trades and establishments, but the values of coppers and silvers in either currency is considered equivalent (e.g., a stribyan is worth ten coppers, whether pór or midanot).
The guild of Storm Owls was founded to provide Dearviél with an elite military force. Rather than serving any cathbrand or contych, the Storm Owls swore allegiance to the high king himself, functioning as a full-time standing army—unique among the Kintaran nations. The Storm Owls’ numbers were small, usually consisting of only around two to five hundred men, though in times of war or invasion these were augmented by forces provided by the cathbrainead. In peacetime, the Storm Owls acted as a kind of royal police force, intervening when necessary in disputes among landlords’ estates and towns.
Cathbrainead do not maintain standing armies of their own; rather, the cathbrand and other nobles are given military training from a young age. The cathbrainead usually have a company of household guards (housecarls), consisting of family members and often men picked from ranking client families. These act as the cathbrand’s personal guards and the vanguard of their armies in battle. Their numbers are augmented by clients such as tenant farmers and some subsistence farmers, who make up the bulk of a cathbrand’s fighting force. Additionally, cathbrainead are known to hire mercenaries, particularly amongst the Northmen living in the towns (though, under Belocharan rule, most Northmen are under military contract to the crown).
Though the Storm Owls were officially disbanded under Olaister’s purges, and many of their number were killed (at great cost to the king’s own men), some are known to have fled to The Twelve, where they established a rigorous military academy on the island of Arthandiné. While most students of the academy are Sordanians, affluent cathbrainead are known to send their sons and housecarls to Arthandiné to train under the program.
Boys and occasionally girls from noble and ranking client families are trained from the time they can stand to wield a weapon, at first utilizing only wooden sticks to learn basic battle tactics. Between ages ten and thirteen, the student is introduced to battle-ready weapons. The primary weapons of the Vacid warrior are the battle axe, the long knife, and the recurve bow. The latter, introduced by the Belochyar during the early invasions (who themselves had adopted them from the Khadagani hordes who’d driven them from mainland Cildana), replaced the more primitive hunting bows that had been modified for warfare, as the recurve bows have longer range and can pierce armor. Poorer subsistence clients in the cathbrand’s service might carry only rudimentary weapons such as a hunting bow, a craftsman’s axe, a wooden club, or even a slingshot. Swords are usually carried only by the cathbrand and his personal guard.
Most Vacids’ armor consists only of a sleeved hauberk and coif made of chainmail, as well as an iron helmet. Fortified families’ cathbrand and housecarls might have some additional armor, such as iron greaves and shoulder plates. Lesser clients in the cathbrand’s army might wear a sleeveless hauberk and coif at most; often, however, these clients were poor and could not afford any armor at all, wearing instead a heavily padded tunic that offered little protection from anything but blunt weapons.
Shields became more prevalent with the arrival of the Northmen, with many Vacids copying the styles and designs they witnessed. Most Vacids will carry only a basic wooden shield made at home or contracted from a woodworker in one of the towns. Nobles and their entourages often use shields with an iron boss and rim. Vacid shields are gripped at the center and not strapped to the arm.
Horses are not indigenous to Dearviél. While they are believed to have been introduced to the island under Daran Ravenhelm, only a few remained after the fall of Darandiné, mostly as prized possessions of ranking landlords. Prior to the Belochyar invasions, the Vacids retained scant knowledge of either cavalry tactics or defense against such attacks, making them extremely vulnerable during the first years of the wars. But the Vacids, and the Storm Owls in particular, learned quickly, and in the ensuing years, Vacid nobles developed their own cavalry tactics based around hit-and-run maneuvers, feigned retreats, and double-envelopments, particularly the cathbrainead with estates in northern Wyrduil, where the dense forests could conceal a flanking cavalry force. Horseback warriors usually carry only one primary weapon—either an axe or a recurve bow—in addition to their long knife, the latter used for dismounted combat. Horses are now bred across Dearviél, particularly in the open fields of Heithlean; Cathanda Caragrinda in particular is even known to breed the dizik, small but extremely surefooted ponies from the Achyanak ideal for moving in difficult terrain.
Since the vast majority of Vacid forces remain unmounted, tactics for defending against a cavalry onslaught are taught, using ranks of pikers supported by precision archers. Javelins are uncommon but occasionally used as additional anti-cavalry weapons. Because conflicts in Dearviél are usually fought on a small scale, the frontal assault remains the most common battle tactic, though, terrain permitting, most cathbrainead will conceal a reserve force in order to flank an enemy. One rather puzzling aspect of Vacid warfare is their reluctance to adopt the shield wall of the Northmen; this seems to stem from the fact that Vacid military philosophy favors taking the offensive, hacking at the enemy and breaking his lines to gain an early advantage, rather than letting the enemy wear himself out beating against the shield wall. Because of this, Vacids will often concentrate on perceived weaknesses in a shield wall, even if doing so temporarily exposes their flanks.
The independent towns have city watches, though, while their members are adept with weapons, these are not so much professional fighting forces but armed police. Accountable to the contych, their primary function is to enforce order and lawfulness within the mayor’s jurisdiction. In the event of an external threat to the town, the city watch can be mobilized into an army, but they are not trained in battle tactics and are usually only meant as a holding force until reinforcements can arrive. While contychaí can call upon cathbrainead to provide defensive forces, most mayors are loath to do this out of fear that the landlords will demand hefty payment for their troubles. Instead, mayors typically look to mercenaries for defense, such as in the Battle of Úlnadóth, in which the contych could have requested forces from a number of surrounding landlords but chose instead to hire a force of Northmen to defend his town rather than being indebted to any of said cathbrainead.
It is not uncommon for Vacid warriors to display the severed heads of their enemies, particularly enemy commanders, as trophies after a battle. The heads are sometimes painted and bejeweled and used as drinking cups.
While high-ranking landholding families are informally referred to as “fortified” estates, this is a misnomer, as all Vacid households are fortified to some extent. Rather, the fourteen families identified as such are housed in larger and more modern structures more similar to those found in mainland Cildana.
The primary Vacid defensive structure is the ringfort. The estates of lesser families may feature a primary circular or rectangular fort made from stone, usually ringed by concentric earthworks, that ensconces the cathbrand’s residence, as well as others of stone or wood around the homes of the landlord’s immediate family. Tenant farmers’ estates may be defended by a smaller circle of earthen banks and wooden palisades. In the case of the cathbrand’s residence, livable quarters may exist within the wall itself; this is uncommon, however, and the landlord’s house is usually a standing structure inside the rampart. The smaller forts around the estates and farms of other nobles and tenant farmers may have one or more buildings and agricultural plots inside their walls. Structures like stables, granaries, and armories may either be housed within the cathbrand’s ringfort or in another fortified area. Subsistence farmers’ leased lands may be fortified in a more rudimentary fashion; while some do have wooden fences, most have only an earthen dike around the land plot, which serves mostly as a property boundary marker rather than a viable defensive arrangement (though stakes may be concealed in the trough to thwart livestock thieves).
The high-ranking families’ fortresses vary in size and strength, from motte-and-bailey structures to large turreted castles. Dúingreath, Carmateach, and Heithbrand, the seats of families Caragrinda, Hemhardea, and Meada respectively, are the largest and arguably most defensible fortresses among the landholding families. Fortresses generally house all or most members of a cathbrand’s family. Tenant clients are given ringforts similar to those used by lower families. Tenants’ estates usually dedicate one family member as a night watchman; in the event of outside hostility, a special fire-arrow, doused in dagól and thus causing it to burn a bright bluish color, is used to signal the cathbrand’s estate for aid.
Independent towns are usually encircled (except where they border rivers or other bodies of water) by a large wall of wood or stone, usually with guard towers and reinforced gates at every road entrance as well as other guard positions around the perimeter. These positions are manned at all times by city watchmen trained both as archers and in close-quarters combat.
In addition to the landlords’ fortresses, both Winterborn invaders and the Belocharan kings constructed fortresses in Dearviél. These include the western stronghold of Linnot Annavian, currently housing the Earl of Cernadur and his armies, and the Belochyar-built fortresses of Vadrashac, seat of the Earl of Surulien, and Cara Kotal, currently the seat of the Golden Owl but originally built as a secondary residence of the king of Belocharas.
Religious Beliefs and Practices
Vacid religion is a mixture of pantheism and ancestor worship. Vacids believe that their Sacred Ancestors judge each person in life, and that, based on that person’s deeds and character, the ancestors decide whether to welcome them into Fial-taodh-Awla (the Afterlife; literally “World beyond the Aether”) or shun them. Owls are said to be the both the messengers of the Sacred Ancestors and the carriers of the dead to the Afterlife.
The Vacids believe that the universe is divided into four realms: the Material World, the Dreamworld, the Otherworld, and the Realm of the Spirits (or Afterlife). These all exist in parallel with one another. The Material World, or Fialath Meadhe (meaning “World of the Cognizance”; also rarely known by the archaic cirield), is further divided into four elements, each with a spiritual essence that inhabits and governs it: the earth (curinhé), the water (ciascheal), the sky (arwan) and the heavens (bearnawan, literally “above the ceiling of the sky”). Each sphere is thought to have a spiritual essence to which the Vacids make offerings during most important ceremonies such as funerals, feast days, tir-carimaí, and prior to battle.
Contrary to popular belief, most Vacids do profess belief in the five demiurge gods, with a pantheon similar to that worshiped by the other Kintaran tribes: Salion as the sky-father, Eryda as the fire-mother, Vilenya as the earth matron, Greathain as lord of the seas, and Erd as the giver of life to all creatures, including sapienkind. However, unlike most other tribes, the Vacids take a decidedly dystheistic attitude toward these deities (meaning that they believe that the gods are malignant forces). Most Vacids believe that the “gods” are in fact extremely powerful Fae who exist in Fial-taodh-Dogól, in a crystal palace colloquially known as “Paradise” (Camaillh in the Vacid language), and manage affairs in the material world through the Web of Fate.
Art, music, and especially poetry are deeply embedded into Vacid culture. Vacid art tends to be abstract; unlike other Kintaran tribes, who often use paintings and carvings as storytelling aids, the Vacids rarely depict human figures in their art. Common motifs include spirals, geometric shapes, and weave-patterns. The only time living things (mostly animals) are typically depicted is in landowning families’ heraldry: their banners, brooches, torcs, and trumpets.
A Vacid’s social status can usually be discerned by observing their dress. Guild members are known to wear extremely conservative clothes—usually a single-color tunic and overcoat, the color based on their respective guild (e.g., white for Snowy Owls, brown for Brown Owls, red for Horned Owls). Tradesmen and townsfolk of significant means often commission custom embroidered fabrics to mark their family’s stature, as embroiderers’ high social status means that their works are highly sought-after and priced accordingly. The more intricate the embroidery, the higher the status. The most affluent citizens, primarily landlords, will purchase embroidered silks—mostly for heraldry and household goods rather than apparel, as Dearviél’s climate is not conducive to silken clothing—most of which are imported from Darakhast and extremely expensive. Silks are priced based upon color; brighter colors, especially yellows, are rarer, and therefore more expensive.
Though silken garments are not common, some cathbrainead may keep a silk mantle for ceremonial purposes (wearing a woolen or cloth one for more mundane tasks and gatherings). These mantles most often match the landlords’ banner flags, which bear the familial crest. The mantle is worn as a symbol of status, though the brooches that fasten it to the shoulders are just as important and often even more elaborate. The more affluent a landlord, the more skilled the metalworker he/she can afford to hire. Brooches usually contain abstract patterns and knotwork, but some may feature carvings of animals or symbols such as swords. Skilled metalworkers usually sketch their designs on a bone trial piece, presenting it to the noble for his/her approval before commencing work on the final design.
More important than the brooch and mantle for displaying a landlord’s status is the torc. Most torcs are worn around the neck, though some cathbrainead have adopted the Northmen’s custom of wearing them around the arm, as these can be made longer and more elaborate and are generally more comfortable to wear. Torcs of minor households are usually made from tin and polished or painted, though some wear silver ones; fortified landlords may be able to afford torcs made from gold. The neck torc consists of an open band of threaded metal, the end worn on the lord’s left usually flaring out into a small knob featuring some kind of insignia, such as an animal head or a symbol from the lord’s crest. Arm torcs can be a simple open band or one of several serpentine coils wrapped the length of the forearm, with the carved knob facing the wearer’s hand. Arm torcs are always worn on the left arm, as the right is considered the fighting arm.
Vacid women usually wear a long, skirted embroidered tunic that extends past the knees, as well as long woolen leggings to cover the lower legs. Affluent women may also wear an embroidered mantle or overcoat. Both men and women have cloaks, usually nondescript and utilitarian in purpose, for use in inclement weather or for traveling after dark, when discretion is preferable.
Jewelry is worn by both men and women of means; however, unlike most Kintaran peoples, Vacids rarely pierce their bodies. Only a few Vacid women, mostly nobles, pierce their ears, emulating practices introduced by the Winterborn and mainland Kintaroi. Instead, items like brooches, mantle pins, bracelets, necklaces (worn with the torc for nobles), hair clips and cuffs, and finger rings are used to denote status. The most affluent Vacids may afford pieces inlaid with precious gems imported from Sordana.
Most Vacids wear thick leather belts, both to secure their clothes and to carry their weapons, drinking horns (an import from the Northmen), coin pouches, and other supplies. Belt buckles are status symbols of their own; whereas a commoner’s belt might be fastened by lacing the end through a tin ring and tying it off, a noble’s may be as elaborate as his/her brooch and torc.
Music, art, and poetry
Every landlord, minor and fortified, has at least one designated herald for ceremonial events like the tir-carima. This herald marches before the lord’s entourage, blowing his cardha, a tall horn similar to a carnyx but featuring a different creature’s head for each family. The cardha is not a musical instrument but one used to announce a lord’s presence or to intimidate an enemy on the battlefield. It is said that the sound of multiple cairdhaí blowing at once is enough to drive an enemy mad; a hundred blowing at once can cause him to spontaneously loose his bowels, leading to the nickname of “shithorns”.
While the cardha has decidedly few musical qualities, music is an important part of Vacid life, both in the home and in communal settings. Professional musicians are in high demand both in the towns and at landlords’ estates. Common instruments played by Vacid musicians include the lyre, zither (introduced by the Northmen), horse-hair fiddle, and hand drum. The lute and bowed lyre are also somewhat common, and the kimaqa, a two-stringed fiddle imported from the Khadagan, is especially coveted by many Vacids. Viols are relatively new to Dearviél, having been introduced from Darakhast; as trade with the west has steadily declined under Belocharan rule, only a handful of viols exist on the island.
Poets occupy a unique status in Vacid society. Many poets are singers and musicians; those who are not often travel with a musical troupe. Poets are some of the only citizens who may travel through a cathbrand’s landhold without that lord’s permission, the others being guild members, emissaries of the Golden Owl, and, under Belocharan rule, king’s men. Despite their privileged status in society, poets often find themselves in a precarious situation, as satire is common (and in demand) in Vacid poetry. But the line between satire and slander is a thin one that a poet must thread carefully, as slander is considered a grave offense (“a deadly tongue”) as it is an affront to its target’s reputation, which affects said target’s anharda. Poets accused of slander may see their own anharda plummet, and even those who have not had their honor value negated are known to have been killed by offended lords or commoners whose societal standings have been adversely affected because of alehouse slander.
Another function of the poet in society is keeping the history of the island alive. Though Vacid scholars in both Dearviél and The Twelve (mostly the latter) keep meticulous records, these dry litanies are of little interest to ordinary folk, whose understanding of the tribe’s legends and lore comes from the songs and verses they hear. These fables are less concerned with accurately retelling historical events than they are with teaching moral or legal lessons, painting a historical figure (or current patron) in a positive light, and pure entertainment—meaning that the bard in question earns a steady and significant stream of profit.
The coming of famine to Dearviél has, unfortunately, caused a significant decline in the performance of the arts.
Within Vacid noble houses, great emphasis is placed on education. In addition to training with weapons and combat tactics, young nobles receive instruction in law, philosophy, history and lore, and occasionally the sciences. Guild members are often besought by cathbrainead to instruct their children. Nobles and many high-ranking clients can read and write, though literacy among townsfolk and subsistence farmers is very low.
Outside the estates, knowledge is usually passed down by mothers and fathers to their daughters and sons, although in some cases families can arrange apprenticeships for their children with tradesmen in the towns. Children who wish to master a particular trade may attempt to join one of the guilds, though the rigorous curricula and initiation processes often dissuade potential guild acolytes.
As with all of Cildana, there are no formal schools in Dearviél. Some Vacids of means, mainly nobles, ranking tenant clients, and affluent townspeople, may be able to afford to send one or more children to the Academy in Satranthia for a full education. This has largely declined under Belocharan rule, and particularly in current times amid famine and economic hardship.
Vacids celebrate a number of feast days (rildain) throughout the year, beginning with Adhoin aí-hEadhinn-Grindana, the Awakening of the Unconquered Sun, on 1 Eirenté, the day after the Winter Solstice and the first day of the new year. This feast is usually the only time that subsistence farmers are invited into the cathbrand’s ringfort for a massive feast and much drinking. Other festivals include Prandlethailé (Prandleth’s Day), celebrated the day of the first full moon of summer, and Rildan aí-Cheanhath, the Festival of the Harvest, celebrated on 35 Erydané, the midpoint of autumn. To celebrate this festival, families place hollowed turnips illuminated with candles outside their doorsteps, which are said to summon the Fae of the Fields to bless the farmland and bring about a plentiful harvest.
Besides these common holidays, many individual feasts are held throughout the year. In the towns, a communal feast is usually held on the anniversary of the town’s charter. Noble families may hold feasts for events such as the cathbrand’s birthday, the birth of a child, or the transference of lordship. The latter usually only occurs upon the previous landlord’s death, but, as Vacids believe that the death of the body heralds a soul’s journey to join the Sacred Ancestors, it is as much cause for celebration as mourning.
The most exuberant celebrations, however, are those of weddings and victories in battle. While Vacid wedding ceremonies themselves are solemn affairs, the feasts that accompany them, leastwise on nobles’ estates, are anything but. Battle feasts are even more boisterous, with warriors exchange boasts of their deeds in battles (usually deep into their ale cups). The “winner” of these rhetorical duels is awarded the choice cut of the meat. These boasting battles are often performed shirtless.
The staple food of the Vacid commoner is rhyt, a highly nutritious root vegetable that can be grown easily and quickly and with minimal natural resources. Since subsistence farmers often have only small plots of land to farm, this vegetable is popular and often essential (though not particularly tasty, most Vacids insist), as many choose to use their animal as a beast of burden rather than a food source. As pigs are endemic to Dearviél, however, pork is the most common choice of meat for both peasants and nobles, with lamb and pheasant also being popular.
Fish, clams, and squid were staples of the Vacid diet prior to the crown’s draconian restrictions on fishing. Dearviél’s rivers, lakes, and streams feature bounties of trout, bass, herring, and lamprey. In the Cernadur province (Denawyld in the Vacid language), the king’s laws are less rigorously enforced, despite the proximity of Linnot Annavian, and most of the swampland is unclaimed by any cathbrand, so fish and waterfowl make up the majority of the diet.
Dearviél’s rich farmlands also produce a variety of fruits and vegetables, including squash, beetroot, potatoes, cabbage, cucumbers, carrots, apples, grapes, and melons. Heithlean in particular is known for its grain production, and the breads and pastries made in that region are considered some of the most desired in all Belocharas.
Vacids are known for their love of drink, though drunkenness and boorish behavior are considered uncouth and dishonorable in Vacid society—a man who behaves in a destructive manner while drunk, even if only causing a nuisance, can see his anharda significantly impacted. Most Vacids prefer ales and wines, though mead brought to Dearviél by the Northmen is increasingly popular. As for non-alcoholic beverages, tea is an integral part of Vacid life.
While commoners are likely to eat basic dishes of meat, rhyt, and a vegetable, plus perhaps some bread or even a small cake, nobles’ feasts can be especially elaborate. The most affluent cathbrainead and craftsmen might season their dishes with exotic spices from Khodryzh and the west, even enjoying delicacies like plantains, rice, and especially beef. (There are no cattle in Dearviél, so beef must be imported and is extremely expensive.)
As of T.D. 824, widespread famine has swept Dearviél, largely due to a blight upon the rhyt crop and increased harvests demanded by the crown. The former has caused particular hardship among the peasantry, as rhyt is their staple crop. Some cathbrainead and townsfolk have insisted that the peasants are “lazy” for only growing this one low-maintenance crop (though it is more a matter of being pragmatic and resourceful) and as such loath to offer aid. Tenant farmers have also been affected due to the increased quotas sent to Haragrund and the broader effects on other crop and livestock resulting from the rhyt failure.
Vacid names are often shortened to the given name and family name, though the full name consists of the given name followed by the parent’s name of the person’s gender followed by an article of belonging to the greater family. Thus, the common name “Fearhan Mana” is properly written as Fearhan Gearrólned aí-Manaí (Fearhan, Gearról’s son, of Cathanda Mana); his sister Leara would be Leara Aidaginon aí-Manaí (Leara, Aida’s daughter, of Cathanda Mana).
The Vacids’ language is sometimes known as Fionnáre, the Fair Tongue; whether this name refers to the legendary heroine Fionna is the subject of much debate amongst scholars. Daran Ravenhelm is rumored to have said of the language that “every word is as sweet as a thrush’s song.”
Sweet though that language may be to the ear, it is notoriously difficult for outsiders’ tongues to master, as it has multiple rules of grammar and syntax, due in part to having significant influence from other languages, possibly even the ancestral language of the Darandingaí. For instance, the suffix -aí denotes a plurality of people or sentient beings (e.g., dearmhengaí, “Fae”; contychaí, “mayors”), but some similar words end in the more archaic -ead (e.g., feacthengead, cathbrainead) instead. To make matters even more confusing, when used as a prefix or independent article, aí means “of” (e.g., Fennadh aí-Lauda, “Citadel of the Moon”) and sometimes other articles. The language is also full of situational rules for pronunciation; for example, the letter transliterated as the diphthong “th” is usually silent, though it may affect the pronunciation of the letter immediately following it very slightly, but, when it appears at the end of a word, it’s pronounced similarly to the “th” in the English word “thin.”
Many Vacids have falsely claimed that the ancestral tongue was banned in Dearviél under Belocharan rule; the language was simply replaced in official speech by Belochyar, which, unlike the Vacid tongue, is mutually intelligible with most of the other tribes’ native languages. There is, however, a story that one of the kings did, in fact, seek to outlaw the use of Vacid speech—not as a means of suppression or assimilation, but because he couldn’t make sense of what was being said!
The Vacid language is distantly related to that of the Öreacha tribe of mainland Cildana, who may have emigrated from Dearviél after the fall of Darandiné.
The Vacid Guilds
The Vacid trade guilds trace their history back to the chieftain Prandleth, who believed that mastering certain skills, and passing down the knowledge of them, was not just a benefit to the tribe but a sacred duty. Eight guilds were established, though only three remain active in Dearviél, plus two in the west. Joining any one of these factions requires a great deal of sacrifice on the part of the acolyte, and initiation rituals are austere and sometimes dangerous. This is to ensure that only highly committed and capable individuals are allowed into the guilds, which are known to teach skills that reach beyond the physical capabilities of sapienkind, including skills taught by the Fae.
The guilds established by Prandleth were:
active in Dearviél
active, but in exile
active in Dearviél
active in Dearviél
active, but in exile
Following King Olaister’s purge of the Grey Owls, the Snowy Owls, under the leadership of Laida Gamhrána (an epithet meaning “Moon Wintersong”; her true name is not recorded), chose to take on that guild’s healing duties, which they still perform in addition to their studies of the sciences. The Night Owls disbanded officially, but poets and artisans maintain a high standing in Vacid society. During Olaister’s purges, the Horned Owls, Brown Owls, and Sea Owls relocated to The Twelve; the former two returned to Dearviél under King Ovradian, with the Horned Owls taking up most of the shamanic functions of the extinct Grey Owls (though the Snowy Owls sometimes perform religious duties as well), but the Sea Owls remained in the west, where their members prospered as merchant captains. The Brown Owls would decline in the later years as the Belocharan economy withered, their remaining members leaving Dearviél once more and reestablishing the guild in Satranthia.
There is an additional guild known as the Blood Owls, consisting of men and women chosen at birth for their distinctive red hair, though this guild is never known to have operated in Dearviél, instead working from its base in Arthandiné. The Blood Owls are a highly secretive organization, but the evidence points to them being another warrior guild, employed by merchants in Darakhast and The Twelve as mercenaries to fight against pirates.
The Therecoi (or Tearachaí in the Vacid language; derived from Tarachai, in their native tongue) are a subgroup of the Feacthengead living in and around the Dúlmeannath, sometimes called “Mountain Vacids.” Their origins are something of a mystery, and their own lore is quite sparse. One fantastical theory says that, when the Fae carried the ancestors of the Vacids to Dearviél, they also brought handsome men for the Elven women to mate with, but these men were frightened by the Winged Elves and fled into the mountains where the Aethereans could not find them. There they grew in number (perhaps through mating with the Dwarves), keeping their language, not emerging from their caves and passes until the fall of Nimvë’s folk.
Whatever their origin, the Therecoi are very similar in appearance to Vacids—most outsiders cannot tell them apart, though some keen observers have noted that Therecoi tend to be somewhat shorter and stouter in stature—and share many cultural and religious similarities, such as ancestor worship and the concept of anharda. While their ancestral language is more similar to that of the Belochyar (though the two tongues are mutually unintelligible; the closest mainland tongue to the Therecoi’s, albeit still distant, is that of the Vihichai and Duchai tribes), few Therecoi now speak it. As with all Belocharan subjects, the Therecoi now speak Belochyar as a first language, though almost all are also fluent in the Vacid tongue.
The Therecoi have historically lived as primitive hill tribes in the Dúlmeannath. While some still cling to this lifestyle, many have moved into the lowlands, taking up work in the towns or as tenant and subsistence farmers on cathbrainead’s estates. Three Therecoi families are recognized as landowning cathainead: Atya, Nensa, and Siska. There are rumors that the Vacid family Inamhra has Therecoi blood in its lineage, though the family disputes this. The cathbrainead of these families are recognized representatives to the tir-carima. (The Therecoi are not considered one of the Nine Nations of Belocharas; rather, the crown considers them Vacids, and the Vacid representative to the king’s council represents their interests.) The landowning Therecoi families have all intermarried with Vacid families, so there are strong blood bonds with their neighbors, though relations between the Vacids and Therecoi are occasionally fraught, and many Vacids do not consider their mountain kin part of the Feacthengead.
List of Vacid Families
Below is a complete list of the landowning Vacid families (cathainead, s.: cathanda) recognized as representatives to the tir-carima.
Borcairdna, Caragrinda, Dolgaisa, Drochdeartha, Eirendranga, Fandoreacha, Feacheanga, Fóhairnea, Hana, Hantheanga, Hemhardea, Inamhra, Meada, Raisa
Minor Landholding Families
Ailageana, Amara, Balcha, Beanatena, Boindeatha, Borthrealda, Breandarga, Chadoacha, Cineachna, Craidogha, Earantha, Eindearsca, Feachanduisa, Fiolamha, Fuiltheanna, Geisa, Haldeargha, Ideara, Ionatha, Leamhachartha, Luachmathea, Macheadga, Mana, Teasha, Thencaida, Uidaimha
Atya, Nensa, Siska