Dominion Era/Tretallë (Culture)
This page discusses a part of the lore of the Dominion Era Tretallë. If you are interested in seeing the Tabletop RPG stats associated with this race, visit: Tretallë (Stats).
|Dominion Era Tretallë|
|Istfet, The Strangers, Invaders, Deathriders|
Imperial Standard of the Tretalleri Dominion
|Land of Origin|
|Continent of Origin||Termalttë|
Known in IktOrryk as the Istfet, and in Dominean as the Bone Elves, the Tretallë are the sister-race of the High Elves. Both these elfin races hail from the eastern continent, known as IldSond to the races of Man, and the Termalttë to the Tretallë. The true ancestral home of the Tretallë, at least, by the accounts of the High Elfin faith, is at the foot of the Shrouded Peaks. However, going by the history of the Tretallë, their oldest recorded home is Di'Ifatallë Cselvë, the Ivory City, home to the Ivory Throne at the heart of the expansive Forest of Bones.
- 1 The Faith of the Nine
- 2 Traditions
- 3 Values
- 4 The Arcane Taboo
- 5 Romance and Sexuality
- 6 Family
- 7 The Bone Trees
The Faith of the Nine
Although the Tretâllë are far from what can be considered fanatical in terms of their faith—in stark contrast to the Dwarves and the Sanctum Faith of the Races of Man—they almost universally ascribe to a singular faith: the Faith of the Nine. The Faith of the Nine is a polytheistic religion with a pantheon that is best described as a trinity of trinities. What this turn of phrase means varies from scholar to scholar and theologian to theologian, but in the vernacular, it is taken to mean that the pantheon is made up of nine gods that are arranged into three groups of three gods, each representing an aspect of the physical, spiritual, and emotional worlds.
In modern scholarship, the Faith of the Nine is believed to be a compound religion. There is a great deal of evidence from pre-Dominion texts that the Faith of the Nine is the result of a collaboration between the then-nucleus of the Dominion, the Kingship of the Bone Trees, and the surrounding tribes and city-states that were assimilated into it to form the Dominion. In fact, some scholars argue that simply looking at the way that worship is distributed among the Nine is evidence enough to indicate that there are two distinct types of religion that were fused into one. Examination of the The Pale Grimoire has indicated that there is indeed a subtle divide between the doctrines surrounding the worship of the Stranger as a singular god, and the worship of the Nine together as a pantheon.
Scholars theorise that the Faith of the Nine was formed from the fusion of a prototypical monotheistic faith—similar to the Faith of the World that the Elledynnë ascribe to—and a more tribalistic, folk-faith from where the eight other gods of the Nine come from. Although many modern scholars agree that this is likely the case, the motivations for such a fusion of faiths are still unclear. There are two major competing schools of thought about why the faith dedicated solely to the Stranger and the folk religions of the surrounding tribes were brought together. There is the Propagandist school who argue that the Faith of the Nine emerged as a statement against the Elledynnë—an early form of cultural propaganda—that further alienated the Tretâllë from the Elledŷnnë and established them as a separate and sovereign race. The other major school of thought has been called the Unionist school, where the argument is that the creation of a unified religion helped to smooth over whatever cultural divides had existed between the Kingship of the Bone Trees and the tribes and city-states that surrounded it, paving the way for the strengthening of the ties that would eventually consolidate into the Dominion.
A noteworthy facet of the Faith of the Nine is the fact that the Nine, and particularly the Stranger, do not demand the worship of the Tretallë. In fact, it is the Faith of the Nine itself that demands this worship. There are no words or verses in the canonical text of the Faith of the Nine indicating that the Nine ever desired their worship. There are specific verses that indicate that they are not opposed to it. In fact there are certain verses that lay out conditions set by each member of the Nine—conditions that would have disallowed the worship of the Nine had they not been met.
This strange state of affairs arises from the fact that the Nine view themselves not as gods to rule over the people of Sekhar, but merely as its stewards. In the Pale Grimoire, the Stranger emphatically states that no more should the Nine be worshipped than the sun that rises in the morning to give warmth and life to the world, or the moon that comes at night, giving guidance to those that have lost their way in the darkness that cools the earth. Instead, the obligation to worship the Nine, and in particular, the Stranger, comes from the story of the Diaspora, where the Stranger was instrumental in giving the Tretâllë the means to escape their enslavement at the hands of the Elledŷnnë. In this sense, worshipping the Nine is not so much a religious obligation to a jealous and insecure god, but an entire culture, an entire people, remembering their shared history and giving thanks to the gods that gave them the means to elevate themselves to what they are now.
There is no concept of punishment for the wicked in the eyes of the Stranger. The wicked are indistinguishable from the righteous, as all mortal souls come naked to face the judgment of the Stranger. In the Stranger's city, the wicked live with the wicked, the righteous live with the righteous, and the neutral live with the Stranger at the heart. Because of this, there is no religious imperative to come to worship. Worship is not done in order to save one's immortal soul from disfigurement and darkness—as in the faith of the Elledŷnnë. Instead, worship is a social and cultural obligation to the Tretâllë. Those who do not come to worship are seen as individuals that take for granted the Stranger's goodwill in saving the Tretâllë from eternal slavery to the insatiable vanity and hedonism of the Elledŷnnë.
Despite this, however, apostasy is not considered too big of a deal within the Dominion. Apostates are believed, privately, to be misguided, but there are protections in place for individuals of any faith—or of no faith at all—so that they may not be discriminated against in any public service, public office, employment, or accommodations.
One of the most interesting features of the Faith of the Nine is that it is a non-creative religion. This doesn't mean that it is unimaginative, it simply means that the Faith of the Nine exists without an independent creation myth of its own, again in stark contrast to the other faiths prominent in the world of Sekhar. Although in its long history, the Dominion has adopted a strange amalgamation of creation stories from cultures in its sovereign territories, the fact remains that the theological and scholarly consensus is that the creation of the world is not attributed to any of the Nine gods that make up the pantheon of the Faith of the Nine.
Instead, the Faith of the Nine acknowledges the existence of gods outside of its purview. Furthermore, the Faith of the Nine asserts that the way that the world began is irrelevant to its narrative. According to the Pale Grimoire, the Faith of the Nine was born the moment that the Stranger appeared to the Pale Ones deep in the bowels of the Shrouded Peaks, giving them the means to escape their slavery under the Elledŷnnë. The story of the years that came before, of how the Pale Ones came to be the slaves of the Elledŷnnë is important to the Faith, but only as a historical background to how the Pale Ones were taken in bondage by the Elledŷnnë.
In Llyrileýwa, one of the books of the Pale Grimoire, which deals with the life and times of the Prophetess, it is said that the Stranger appeared to the prophetess and emphatically stated that the world as it exists was not wrought by his hand nor by the rest of the Nine. Instead, the Stranger states that to his knowledge the world simply came to be with no particular detail. Theologians and scholars took this to mean that it is the Dominion's responsibility to figure out how it was that the world came to be, although, the words that the Stranger allegedly used have been pointed out, time and again, to cast aspersions on theories that purport an eternal world with no beginning or end.
Collectively, the Tretallë are neither as festive, light-hearted, nor superficial as their High-Elfin brethren. Though they have often been described as a grim people possessed of a morbid sense of humour and fascination with the macabre. The stereotype has been a long-standing one, and almost in vindication of the stereotype, the Tretallë can't care less about it. In fact, the Tretallë are normal. They are, admittedly, less prone to humour and more vulnerable to bouts of seriousness, but they are much like everyone else.
The Tretallë, however, do celebrate every so often, mostly in reverence to the Ivory Throne and their people's history of conquests and feats of war.
The Tretallë are devoted most to the one whom they call the Stranger, much to the chagrin of their Elfin cousins. Because of their fascination with the avatar of Death itself, sacred to their people are the heralds of its coming: bones and blood. To the Tretallë, ivory is the most sacred resource, and many of them are willing to pay fortunes for ivory of the highest quality. In fact, they call ivory 'Ifatallë' which means pristine bone in Tretalleri.
The Feast for Victory
This is one of the most important celebrations in Tretalleri society. It is a day dedicated to the celebration of the Pale Imperator, His throne, and His Dominion.
The feast for victory is a festival lasting a week that begins on the day of a Pale Imperator's coronation, and every nine years hence. This is one of the few truly festive occasions in Tretalleri culture, where both men and women and everything in between are expected to partake in joviality and debauchery. Each day of this week is, in fact, a day of religious obligation, and all men under the Dominion are required to supplicate the Gods, particularly the the Rider and the Stranger, for another nine years of victory and conquest for the Dominion.
As the sun sets upon the Dominion and the stars begin to shimmer in the skies, the food is brought out for the nightly banquets. All are invited, rich or poor, young or old, to partake of the bounty of the Dominion and the lands under its heel. On the first night, however, the banquet is filled with dishes from the motherland, which are hardy and less-than-succulent, in order to remind all of the Imperator's subjects of the Dominions humble beginnings. All of the other days are filled with food from many different lands, and the worth of a banquet is decided by how many people grow sick of having had too much to eat.
In proper Tretalleri grammar: D'Jommë Di'Tâllë. It is known as the Day of Bones in Dominean, but this translation loses the nuance of Tretalleri. The literal translation of D'Jommë Di'Tâllë is The Day Belonging to the Bones, a name that more properly describes the festival's dedication to the deceased relatives of the Tretallë. The Jomdtallë is an annual day of obligation prominent among the members of the Blood, who have the resources to perform the day's duties. It is a day of solemnity for everyone, but the religious obligation is mandated only to the Tretallë. However, it has been an increasing fashion in some of the older colonies of the Dominion that any race under the Dominion's sovereign purview would participate in the day's observations.
When any member of a family dies, the matriarch of the family brings the body forth to one of the Priests for two reasons: anthropomancy, and a simple calculation. Based upon centuries of experience and well-kept records, the Priests have devised a way to determine how fast rot takes a body. Upon determining this value, the Priests bequeath a number of years to the matriarch. After this number of years has passed, the body of the dead will have decayed enough that only the bones remain, and even those are fragile enough to shatter and in some cases, crush.
It is on the Day of Bones when the interred bones are dug up and cleaned and prepared to either be ground into a fine dust for infusion and reinforcement of wooden weapons or luxury furniture. Alternatively, bones that are not brittle enough to be crushed are broken into shards for integrating into the family Bone Tree.
In proper Tretalleri grammar: D'Jommë Korvë. This day is perhaps the bloodiest 'celebration' in Tretalleri culture. It is a sometimes downright-fanatical day of devotion to the Stranger that occurs every three years while a Pale Imperator sits on the Ivory Throne, or every six when one does not. On this day, known in Dominean as the Day of Ravens, the rookeries set free their ravens for the day. There is no risk of losing ravens as they have been trained to return on sundown the same day. During the intervening hours between dawn and dusk, men and women alike are required to leave out scraps of meat, seeds, or any sort of food for the ravens.
Occasionally, especially in more fanatical domains of the Dominion, where the local populace has taken on the Averrë Nenn, blood is spilt on this day. This bloodletting is done through a series of duels, mostly between young men and women, called Vellakorvë, The Flight of the Ravens, where blood may be spilt, but lives may not be taken.
In religious centres of the Dominion, where the population is largely Tretalleri, darker rituals take place in the temples of the Nine. Most outlying towns and agricultural hamlets partake in ritual animal sacrifice and haruspicy, the act of foretelling future events using the entrails and viscera of dead animals. In larger cities, where there are decent populations of the Gallarë, and the death of one is not too big a burden, one of the mages is brought forth in a ritual sacrifice with much fanfare and pomp.
Gruesome as the Rite of Sanguine Benediction might be to the outsider, it is in fact a great honour to the Gallarë to be chosen for this task. When the sacrifice is done, and the blood of the magus purified of its iron, anthropomancy is performed to determine the fate of the city until the next Day of Ravens. After this, the body of the sacrificed is put to good use. The purified blood, painstakingly stripped of iron and collected drop for drop, is used by the Priests to create elixirs of strength, courage and fortitude, given to any who are willing to pay a hefty price for the upkeep of the temples of the Nine.
If the city where the Rite of Sanguine Benediction is performed has a High Rookery, the corpse is taken there to be picked clean by the Pale Ravens, large birds with ivory-white plumage and beady eyes filled with intelligence infinitely greater than the common raven. After they are fed, the Pale Ravens sleep until their next meal or until their services are needed. These ravens are a special breed meant for quick, long-distance flight, and are reared from birth to feed only on Tretalleri flesh.
When the feeding is done and only the bones remain, they are painstakingly dried, cleaned, fractured, polished, and carved. When the preparation is done, the bones are hung from the twisted and gnarled branches of the city's Grey Tree situated at the heart of the city's greatest temple courtyard. This ritual is a grander, more elaborate, and more beautiful version of what is done on the Day of Bones.
Finally, it is important to note that Blood Magic runs rampant in the streets on this day. Legend has it that the more Days of Ravens a Tretallë has witnessed in his/her life, the darker the stripes on his/her face will be, a sign of the Stranger's blessings of wisdom. It is also worth noticing that historically, it is after sundown on the Day of Ravens that the most successful military campaigns of the Dominion have been carried out.
There are a number of values central to the Tretalleri way of life. Though sometimes called virtues by adherents to the Faith of the Nine, more often than not, they are simply pertained to as virtues. These are not values that Tretâllë simply pursue in their lives, but they are, in fact, guiding principles for the Dominion—both for its government and its people.
The value that is held above all else in Tretalleri life, the principle that informs every aspect of society and government, is Peace. This value is embodied by the principle deity of the pantheon, the Stranger. Now, it is understandable how, from the perspective of an outsider, one could consider this paradoxical in the context of what the Dominion is and has been for a lot of its long history: an empire bent on conquest. Furthermore, one can extend this to the Stranger himself, since it is by his divine edict that the Dominion is given the imperative to conquer. However, it is important to note that Tretalleri scholarship, philosophy, and theology all make distinctions between the value of "Peace" and the vernacular "peace." To academia, the former, Peace, is the quality of living life each day with the mindset that should death come at any moment, it should be and, in fact, must be faced without regret or resistance. The latter, peace, in the meantime, pertains to the periods of history in the Dominion wherein it has no active outward or even inward military campaigns.
All the other values of the Faith of the Nine seem to arise naturally as a result of the pursuit of the Stranger's Peace. Individualism or Independence, for example, another value that heavily affects legislation and social attitudes in Tretalleri society, arises from the fact that every individual must face death without regret. Although there is evidence from pre-Dominion texts that there were gender-restricted roles in Tretalleri society prior to the establishment of the Dominion, these restrictions were abolished entirely once the canon of scripture, the Pale Grimoire, of the Faith of the Nine was compiled. In the place of such restrictions were legal guarantees that individuals of any gender, of any race, and of any orientation would have the freedom to choose the careers that they wished to pursue in life.
Loyalty, Openness, Discretion, Integrity, Courage, and the pursuit of Wisdom and Knowledge also figure prominently in Tretalleri legislation and culture. All of these can be related directly or indirectly to the idea of the Stranger's Peace. Loyalty and Openness, for example, prevent an individual from experiencing regret as a result of betraying another person, whether it be through intentional or unintentional deceit. Courage aids an individual face the uncertainty of death without fear but with open acceptance. Wisdom and Knowledge reveal the truth that death is not something to be feared, but is in fact, a brief reprieve from the weariness that one might have as a result of the long journey of life.
Last, but certainly not least, is the value of Restraint. The Pale Grimoire warns against the excesses of life and the material world. It expresses, emphatically, that the downfall of the Elledŷnnë is in part the result of their hedonism. They embroil themselves so deeply into the material realm that they allow themselves to experience pain and pleasure to excesses that make them unwilling to part with life. So, the Pale Grimoire teaches, Tretâllë must avoid falling prey to such excessive desires lest they become unwilling to accept the peace of death.
The Arcane Taboo
Despite the widely-held view that the Tretâllë are warmongers and conquerors bent on the dominance of the known world—a view corroborated by the Tretalleri concept of the Divine Imperative to Conquest—they are surprisingly opposed to having anything to do with the arcane. Although the strictures on the arcane have loosened since the reign of Dalran a'Callan in Y.D. 26300-26850, the Tretâllë nevertheless have a taboo against the practice of the arcane arts among their own people. Although there are no documents that specifically address the question of why the arcane taboo exists, many historians and scholars posit that the disdain for magic stems from the ingrained Tretalleri loathing of the hedonism of the Elledŷnnë.
It is worth noting, however, that throughout the long history of the Dominion, it has never attempted to quash or otherwise halt the development of arcane arts in other cultures. In fact, the A'drekh Fireshapers flourished more under the Dominion than in the tribal, feudalistic system that they had lived under before the Dominion came and integrated the A'drekh. The blanket ban on the use of arcane items in the Dominion applied only to its Tretalleri citizens, who were largely on board with the idea. Arcane arts outside of the Tretalleri populace were governed by the Society of Arcanology that adheres to the Laws of Arcanology, a set of legal guidelines established by Cilritanë a'Detvida in Y.D. 43 and expounded upon by Korenn a'Zo-Hanyll in Y.D. 5302.
A direct result of the Tretalleri taboo against the arcane, a significant portion of the Dominion's resources is directed internally, toward the research of technology and techniques that would make things easier to do without having to resort to the arcane. The Dominion has proven to be a consistent source of new technology geared toward improvements that can be felt either in the economy or in the quality of life of its citizens. One such advancement is the development of terraced farming in mountainous regions, which had had trouble being occupied prior to the development of the technique. Another advancement is the breeding of winter-resistant crops, allowing farmers a decent amount of leeway and preventing crops from being ruined by an early first snow.
Despite the near-paranoia that the Tretâllë view the arcane with, very few of them are in fact born with the spark to wield magic. Even those who are born with the spark cannot use magic in the same way that the Elledŷnnë could, because the system of magic used by the Elledŷnnë is an artificial one. Nevertheless, these individuals are treated differently than normal Tretalleri citizens. They are routinely sought out and, after a ceremony known as the Binding, they become known as Di'Trigallârë, which roughly translates to "those bound by Blood" in Dominean. They are commonly known as Di'Galteri, lit. The Bound.
Di'Trigallârë are about as close to slaves as a person can get in the Dominion, which despises any form of slavery but has legal provisions for indentured servitude. The Bound have many freedoms, and are in fact not required to remain within sight of their masters or handlers at all times. They are merely bound to serve the Ivory Throne for life, although their servitude can be purchased from the Ivory Throne for a price that partly goes into the Imperial treasury, but mostly goes toward the sustenance of the families of the Bound.
Romance and Sexuality
The Family dynamic in Tretalleri society is rather complicated, and in truth, it is less about what Family one belongs to, but rather what lineage or House. Tretallë are known to be naturally polyamorous, and for biological and cultural reasons, females tend to pair off with each other in same-sex relationships. Males do the same, although this is more often than not platonic as they have a very low libido for most of the year. Furthermore, these homosexual relationships tend to gravitate toward each other, forming polyamorous groups of partners. This leads to most families ending up with three or four parents, of whom two are very likely to be female.
Furthermore, Tretalleri society is matrilineal. The line of descent is traced through the mother as it is not unheard of for males to not have direct descendants and only children shared with other members of a polygamous marriage. Furthermore, marriage is not considered a contract of exclusivity and it is not unheard of for a male to have a child with a female from another marriage. That child is considered a part of the female's Birthed Family, a concept discussed later on, but not the male's. This would further muddy descent if it were patrilineal, but matrilineality and the way that Families are defined legally ensure that lines of descent are unbroken and unmuddled.
As might be clear from the above, the Tretallë have a live-and-let-live philosophy when it comes to sexuality, as long as proper consent is given. Because the culture's principal deity is the Stranger, the god of Death, an Aspect that does not discriminate between individuals regardless of sex, age, wealth, or beliefs, they see no reason to care about whom a person sleeps with as long as it does no harm. Furthermore, the militaristic aptitude of the Tretallë lends to this worldview, as the aching of one's loins matter very little on the fields of battle, where life and death balance on a razor's edge.
When it comes to finding mates, be they life-mates or simply temporary bed-mates, the Tretallë have an unspoken code of social etiquette to display one's romantic status. Hair and accessories are worn in rather particular ways in order to attract or otherwise ward off undesired individuals. First and foremost, all non-combatant Tretallë are expected to allow their hair to grow long. Hair that is either left unimpeded or tied up in a ponytail or bun, is a sign that the individual is single, apathetic toward romance, and lacking in any desire whatsoever to participate in the mating dance.
A Kartallë, lit. heart-bone, is a bangle made of either antler or ivory which can be inlaid with copper, silver, gold, and mithril but isn't, necessarily. For short-haired Tretallë, the lack of a Kartallë is a sign of the same thing as hair not being worn in a braid. Those who do wear Kartâllë fall into two categories: those looking for temporary bed-mates, who wear a single Kartallë, and those looking for committed relationships, indicated by two Kartâllë. The arm on which the Kartallë are worn is indicative of the gender that the individual is looking for. Kartâllë worn on the right arm mean that the individual is seeking a male, and Kartâllë on the left denote the desire for female companionship.
The material inlaid into the Kartâllë denote something further about what the individual is seeking, as well. There can be more than one metal inlaid into a Kartallë. Gold inlay says that the individual is seeking someone who identifies with the gender that aligns with their biological sex. Silver inlay says that the individual is simply seeking someone who identifies with the gender that they desire. Mithril indicates that the individual is seeking someone who is transgender, or someone that identifies with the gender opposite to the sex they were born with. Copper says that the individual is seeking someone who expresses as the gender they desire, regardless of biological sex or gender identity. The lack of any of these metals indicates that the individual doesn't care about biological sex or gender identity, and just wants a partner.
Outside of the use of the Kartâllë to advertise one's desires, a person is also expected to display some sort of sign of commitment, if they are committed. A female that is committed but not married wears her hair in a braid. Clips of different metals are affixed to the braid. A female wears one clip for each of her partners. Gold clips denote females, silver clips denote non-binary mates, and copper clips denote male mates.
Because males are more likely to wear their hair short or in ponytails, braids are out of the question. Instead, males wear a net of fine bronze links and metal beads known as the Karkâfë, lit. heart-net. Karkâfë come in two varieties, nets that cover the entire head, and nets that are placed where the base of a ponytail meets the head. Regardless of the type, Karkâfë are functionally the same. They serve the same purpose as female hair braids, and the metal beads, which come in copper, silver, and gold, mean the same thing in terms of partners. The main difference is that if the male has only one partner, the metal bead is about as large as a person's thumb and is set in the middle of the Karkâfë.
Married individuals wear black feather charms. These are attached to braid clips, in the case of females, and to the metal beads in Karkâfë, in the case of males. The feather charms are attached to the clips or beads that the individual is married to, not necessarily all of them.
The Tretalleri family unit is one of the stranger ones among the different cultures of the world of Sekhar. There is a tendency in Tretalleri society toward a family unit consisting of three or four parents and anywhere between one and three children. It is not uncommon for these numbers to vary outside of the norm, but in general, this is the case. As they are naturally polyamorous, Tretalleri individuals have no qualms about having multiple partners, and often, this is in fact for the best as there is a general imbalance between the libidinous tendencies of the sexes in Tretalleri society.
Males in Tretalleri society have a tendency to have one male and one female partner. Females are more likely to have multiple female partners and one male partner. This is a suitable situation as males have no interest in sexual relationships for most of the year, and females are, in general, always interested.
Children tend to be reared in communal groups, as there tend to be a number of them at any one time in the waralmâlttë of a community despite the children of any one set of characters being as much as ten years apart in age, and five on average. These créches are vital to the rearing of Tretalleri children because they encourage the association of children not only with other individuals of their same age group but with other adults as well. This promotes the development of social skills, which, if the families were mostly insular, would not be developing as quickly since the children tend to be many years apart.
Because women have a tendency to be the breadwinners of the family—mostly because in any one family there are more women than men—fathers are expected to be in charge of the early education of children prior to official schooling, and women are expected to provide the necessary funds for that education. Once a child begins their formal education, though, all the parents start to take equal roles in reinforcing the things that are taught in school.
In Tretalleri marriages, there is typically a principal couple, usually the pair that has the eldest child in any particular family. This does not mean that this particular couple receives preferential treatment over the others, but strictly for matters of law and government and church records, the principal couple is the one most prominent in writing. The First Spouse, who is the male in a male-female principal couple, takes on the House name of the Principal Spouse, who is typically the female of a heterosexual principal couple. Homosexual principal couples decide, with other partners, whom the title of head of the household would go to, and they become the Principal Spouse while their other partner becomes the First Spouse.
Further partners in Tretalleri marriages are noted as Brother- and Sister-Spouses to the First Spouse. It is worth noting that Sister-Spouses are not expected to take on the House name of the Principal Spouse, while the Brother-Spouses are traditionally expected to but do not, as a matter of law, have to. Arrangements for residency are entirely up to the discretion of the married spouses, but as would later become clear, the home of the Principal Spouse tends to become the home of the other Spouses as well. This is due to Family and House bone trees, which will be discussed further down.
Clans, Houses, and Families
There are three major divisions in Tretalleri society, each one smaller than the one preceding it, becoming more and more specific about lines of descent as we go down the list. These three divisions are the Clans, the Houses, and the Families.
Tretalleri society is divided along relatively clean lines known as Clans. Although, in the face of the law, Clans are little more than a formal grouping of common descent. The idea of Clans hails from the early, formative years of the Dominion, when the Kingship of the Bone Trees was beginning to consolidate Tretalleri authority and sovereignty. At the time, tribes and city-states often traced their descent from one particular historical woman, and the idea of Clans is a direct descendant of that form of mentality.
Clans include, as members, all descendants of individuals that are partnered with the Matriarch. This happens even retroactively, and children with past partners, as well as past partners, are considered a part of a Clan unless they express that they do not wish to be. Furthermore, children of partners of the Matriarch with women other than the Matriarch that are not themselves partnered with the Matriarch are considered members of a Clan subject to the same conditions as past partners and children. As a result, Clans are a confusing tangle of relationships and have very little pull in the judicial system, as Tretalleri law considers a person's Clan-name to be largely irrelevant in many cases. Furthermore, there is significant legal precedent that allows women to simply branch off and establish their own Clans if they wish to.
Houses are similar to Clans in that they can be established at any point by women who decide to branch off from their present House. The first Houses of the Dominion were established in Y.D. 1872 by the female Imperator Loryn a'Devytorë, making her House, House Devytorë, and the House of her sister, House Zo-Hanyll two of the oldest houses.
According to laws established then by the Imperator Loryn, and amendments since then, where Clans span the breadth of all the children of the Matriarch and her partners, a House only considers the direct descendants of the marriage that established it as part of the House. Only children shared among the Matriarch, her First Spouse, and any Brother-and-Sister-Spouses form the basis of the House. Further generations are governed by a simple rule. Members of the House that become Principal Spouses are considered a part of their original House. First Spouses and Brother-and-Sister-Spouses are considered a part of the House of the Principal Spouse for legality, although in matters of succession, they are considered a part of both their original House and the House of their Principal Spouse.
Furthermore, a Family can gain the status of a House if it meets three conditions. For a Family to gain the status of a House, it must first have a female as part of the Principal Couple, who would become the Matriarch of the House; second, one of the Spouses, (Principal, First, Brother- or Sister-Spouses) must be in consideration and is eligible for elevation from the Common Blood to the High Blood; and, finally, the Family must have at least one female child to ensure that the House would not immediately die due to a broken line of descent.
The Houses of the realm are divided into three categories determined by the longevity of the bloodline, the prominence of the figure that the House traces its descent from, and the nobility of acts performed by that particular bloodline. The first of these categories are the Houses of the Azure Blood, also known as Di'Ferindë or The Great Houses. The Great Houses trace their lines of descent at least five thousand years into the past, and all of them are elevated to that position by Imperators or by unanimous vote from the Twin Courts, whenever one of the Great Houses' lines of descent are broken by the inability to produce heirs.
The second category belongs to the Houses of the High Blood. These are Houses that, in general, can confidently trace their lines of descent back some few hundred years into the past. They are almost universally raised from the third category by Imperial edicts or votes by the Twin Courts.
The third category encapsulates all Tretalleri citizens of the Dominion. The Common Blood pertains to all individuals born into a Tretalleri Family that resides within Dominion lands. There is a constant—if slow—movement of Houses between the High Blood and the Common Blood. Houses from the Common Blood are elevated for extraordinary heroism, while Houses from the High Blood can be demoted to the Common Blood for failing to meet with the expectations of individuals belonging to the High Blood.
Families are subsets of Houses, which can be considered as extended Families. By law, however, Families begin at the Principal Spouse and his/her partners, and end at any children that they may share. A single, childless person is considered to be a part of a single Family, the Birthing Family, or the family of their parents. However, once a person becomes married, they are considered a part of two families: their Birthing Family and their Birthed Family, which includes their partners and any children that might be had at a later date. Family names typically remain unwritten in most records, but official census and government records do require these.
In contrast with the a' prefix associated with House names, Family names use the prefix ri' followed by the name of the Principal Spouse.
The Bone Trees
One of the most theologically and historically heavy aspects of Tretalleri family life, Di'Lignetâllë, formally known as De'Tallë Lîgnë, is also perhaps one of the most important. Bone trees are present at the heart of each Waralmalttë, except in the homes of poorer families. The eight homes surrounding the courtyard are typically occupied by members of the same House, who all share duties to the bone tree. For Houses that are more dispersed, the remains of the dead are typically interred to familial bone trees as well as House bone trees that are planted in the residence of the House matriarch. Furthermore, families that either do not possess a bone tree or have no affiliation to a House, can instead honour their dead through communal bone trees that are planted at the hearts of communities, of which there are multiple in large, densely populated areas like cities.
Bone tree saplings are pricey, both for the fact that there are few cultivators in the Dominion, and because these cultivators are sustained primarily by the sales of these saplings. Lignetâllë figure not only in Tretalleri family life, but also in other things, such as marking the tombs of the unnamed fallen, or in memorial of battles that resulted in the loss of life. For this reason, poor families tend to not have familial bone trees, unless given saplings out of charity by more affluent members of the community. However, this lends well to community life as these families inter their dead in the communal bone trees, fostering a sense of togetherness especially in small villages that really can't afford more than the one communal bone tree at the centre of town.
These Bone Trees are a cultivar of the Lignebargë, a tall, ivory-white tree with drooping branches and silvery-grey foliage that is one of the very few organisms capable of surviving in D'Irressë Di'Lertanys, the Desolation, that surrounds the Shrouded Peaks. The Bone Trees are, at first glance, indistinguishable from their distant cousins. However, once they are examined closer, it is clear that there are some notable differences between the two species. Bone Trees, for one, have light blue sap as opposed to the almost pure white sap of the Lignebargë. Furthermore, horizontal incisions into bone trees are likely to reveal shards of bone buried in the tree, hence the name. Even toward the end of the Dominion Era, inquest into whether the sap of the Lignebargë possessed the same medicinal qualities as the sap of the Lignetallë remained inconclusive.
On the Day of Bones, families with bone trees, after preparing and shattering the bones of the deceased, cut incisions into the bark of the bone trees and place shards of bone in those incisions. Typically, one shard is enough. The rest are saved and preserved in order to create mementos of those that have passed, or they are taken to the House bone trees and interred there, as well. However, prominent family figures, particularly ones that have done much good for the family, are given two or three shards in the bone trees. The process is much the same for communal bone trees, and often the community comes together to decide which individuals are deserving of having more than one sliver of bone placed in the bone tree.
After the incisions are made, they begin to bleed Neýrsë, the light blue sap of the tree which the family (if it is a familial tree) or a group designated by the community (if it is communal, instead), reverently gather the sap into glass jars greased with animal fat. Bark cut away from the tree to make incisions is also stored in covered baskets and allowed to air-dry for two days. A large portion of the total amount of sap collected is given to the community apothecary, typically, where it is made into many different medicinal products such as tonics, elixirs, potions, and salves, particularly Nynasë, a very effective booster for the Tretalleri immune system that historically, is attributed with preventing the uncontrollable spread of disease.
Whatever remains of the sap after the law-mandated portions are given to the apothecaries, and the Dominion government for the purposes of contingency, is distributed evenly among all the families in the community. The day after the distribution, families tend to celebrate the memory of the deceased by telling stories and eating a sort of candied version of the bone tree bark that is boiled in a mixture of water, sap, and honey, before being baked until crisp. Afterwards, the sap is boiled to rid it of excess water, pressed into blocks or irregular chunks with cheesecloth and left out in the sun to dry out further. Sap prepared in this way tends to take on a sweet flavour and keeps for a very long time, sometimes until the next Day of Bones. Periodically, slices of sap may be used to flavour soups as a remedy for passing illness, and at times, as a sweetening for stews. Leftover bark is dried in much the same way and dried, taken out and boiled at a later day to provide a subtle earthy flavour to soups.
Considered the Tretalleri panacea and used for everything from toothaches to headaches to bleeding amputated stumps, Nynasë has amazing medicinal properties that make its reputation well-earned. However, for all its effectiveness, Nynasë cannot protect against all diseases. One disease in particular remained a constant, terrifying shadow that loomed over the makers of Nynasë. Called Di'Wirenë or the Withering, its method of transmission remained undiscovered until well into the Conquest Era. Di'Wirenë plagued low-lying towns, cities, and villages that inevitably developed pools of stagnant water after the rainy season. For all its near-miraculous ability to remedy many other diseases, the best that Nynasë could do was ease the symptoms of the disease.
Upon recommendation from his Prince of Ravens Darran a'Zoreni, AC Natheran a'Vatagan, in 8401 Y.D., decreed that a portion of the sap collected from the bone trees must be given to apothecaries as well as imperial physicians so that there can be a stock of Nynasë prepared in the case that a disease spreads across the Dominion. Another reasoning for this was the educated guess of Dominion Scholars of the time that there were other resistant diseases other than Di'Wirenë, and that there must constantly be a supply of sap so that research can be made into making Nynasë more effective.
Sure enough, toward the 12th millennium of the Dominion Era's existence, as more and more sophisticated information networks were laid out by the Grand Rookery, reports of diseases that seemed to be resistant to Nynasë began to pile up. Diseases that had escaped the eye of the highest institutions of learning came into the light of day, and it became increasingly clear that Nynasë would not be enough to serve the Dominion. Although some of these diseases found remedies in the frenzy of research that followed their discovery, Di'Wirenë is one of the few that remained unknown.