The Gwerin of Cyflawnau dwell in their northern lands, in walled towns around walled keeps with walled towers at their hearts. They are a sturdy people, tough and tenacious, the last bastion of civilization at the north end of the known world. Learning of all kinds is a scarce commodity amongst them, and so is prized highly. Authors, artists, and musicians hold great sway in their scarcity, and craftsmen are solicitously honored. The Gwerin are deeply pious as a rule, with their religious commandments inextricably woven into the laws of the land. But having been fragmented for so very long, the Gwerin people live feudally, and therefore usually under threat of battle. The fractious lords of the Gwerin vie amongst one another for wealth and prominence, countering one another in a tired game of politics. All Gwerin, however, serve Dia and their liege lords, and await the prophesied return of their lost High King.
The Gwerin are generally lighter-skinned, ranging from pale to peach-ish, and are usually weather-worn. Not a tall folk, males stand around 5½’, while females average an even 5’. Hair colors tend toward lighter shades of brown and auburn, while eyes aim toward brown or green. Blond hair and deep blue eyes show occasionally, and platinum-blond locks are taken amongst Gwerin as the sign of the Dia-touched.
Castes and Classes
The Gwerin have divided their world into strict castes, with a ladder that runs from bondsmen to royalty. Class mobility is nearly unheard-of, though romanticized tales are, of course, told around hearthfires. At the bottom rung stand the bondsmen, chained to their land and liege by oaths of fealty. Bondsmen have rights to life, marriage, and property, but not to travel or own land. Bondsmen typically farm their lords’ estates, and tend to pay their taxes in crops and game. The members of a noble house, from maids to guards, are also usually bonded, though these estate-dwellers tend to value their stations higher than a poorer freemen.
Freemen officially stand one step up, having the right to travel as they wish, own their lands, and, (unless already bound by oaths or family) choose their liege. Many freemen are farmers with their own small holds, but the free craftsmen tend to draw more attention and more leverage in settlements. Metalworkers and merchants, in particular, often carry as much influence as many nobles. Most men-at-arms, career soldiers, and mercenaries come from this caste.
Knights are generally associated with the nobility, but many are not precisely in that class. Often closer to freemen, the average knight generally manages a house, a small freehold, or perhaps a village. It is shameful, however, for a knight to work a trade for pay. Instead, the responsibilities of knights revolve around arms, armies, and the particular instructions of their liege lords. Knights per se do not have other knights as vassals, while a true noble does.
The clergy vie with the nobles of the Kingdom for the top of the heap. Priests of Holy Dia wield great influence over many hearts and minds, and no position of rulership remains steady for long without the blessing of the Church. From mendicant friars to abbots to lay priests governing large tracts of Church land, Dia’s ministers enter all walks of life, and move among them. Where Triunism still holds sway, the clergy of the Red Lady and the Horned Lord continue to invoke their gods and perform the necessary sacrifices, but they lack the bustling bureaucracy and bursting coffers of the Dian church.
Nobles, however, are truly in charge. Governing with force of arms and usually backed by an affirmed divine right, the nobility are the chief legal, military, and economic force within the Kingdom. Landholders with vassals who are in turn landholders, nobles generally control the happenings on their territory. They handle the most coin as well, funding municipal projects and outfitting troops.
The Kingdom of Cyflawnau has been a kingdom only off and on through its history. Dynasties are unfortunately short-lived, whether through malice or mishap. In the absence of a king, the Council of Lords makes the decisions of the land. Of course, this means that the strength of the royal government wanes behind the influence of the provincial rulers.
The Church tends to act as the glue that binds the fractious Gwerin lands together in kingless times. Church officials are the reliable messengers, record-keepers, and mediators. While not without their own agenda, priests are usually seen as neutral parties with the power to settle disputes.
Dian faith is the core of the Gwerin ways, guiding most principles. Every Gwerin hopes each day for salvation, prays morning, noon, and night, tithes regularly, and attends chapel services. The priesthood commands great respect, abbeys and convents dot the land, and wayside shrines are commonplace.
The Dian faith is not alone, however, and old folkways from the days of Triunism remain in some parts, particularly in the Northern Reach and the Westwold. The priests of the Red Lady and the Horned Lord are still present at the crowning of a king, and one or two of the countryside abbeys honor more than Dia. In many households, the Red Lady is invoked when fires are kindled, and most peasants give the Horned Lord his due at the end of a good hunt.