HARP Folkways Preview Excerpt: A Folkway of Shadow World

Copyright Jon Cassie and Guild Companion Publications Ltd © 2016

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"These ice caves are monstrous underground systems large enough to house cities and civilizations."

Near the South Pole is a landmass featuring one of Shadow World’s most intriguing environments - the Ice Grottoes. These ice caves are monstrous underground systems large enough to house cities and civilizations. Lacking rain but not water, they sustain themselves through springs and the ice. Great thermal vents (a common enough environment to encounter in the South Polar Region) provide the heat necessary for a people adjusted to cold (the Lydians) to sustain a creative, innovative and comparatively rich society. Founded more than a century ago by enterprising Lydians, the Vasai Republic is a compelling case study of a culture on the make but in transition. The social relationships upon which the Republic is founded are interesting, problematic and, perhaps, unsustainable over the long term, and this is to say nothing of the larger questions of magic and sorcery that are central to their culture. Nor have the Lydians sorted out their relationships with the minority Ochu whose social power in the Republic is limited by their history with the Lydians. This relationship is called “The Trials,” and marks a three-generation long period where the Lydians essentially stripped the Ochu of any power, respect or authority over their own lives. These policies have ended, but they remain a dominant feature of Ochu life.

Order Ways Vasai
Sphere The most important concern of the Vasai is that there is no mixing between the Lydians and the Ochu (except for the third genders). The Trials came about because one faction in Vasai society enacted a series of laws that drove the Ochu more or less into slavery. Secondarily to this is the tendency on the part of the rich to want to stay rich. Many subtle bendings and shapings of their institutions are enacted to ensure this stays true.
Joining Vasai government is divided into six a’at (offices). One of these offices is called the Grottoes Office. In the basic law, this office has limited power. In reality, the Grottoes Office ensures that Lydians and Ochu are largely kept apart from each other. It ensures that they don’t work together (unless the Ochu have a demonstrably lower status), that Ochu power remains limited and that Ochu do not live where Lydians are better “suited” to living. In a contemporary Earth context, the Grottoes Office might be called the Apartheid Office.
Tenacity The Senate is the only entity in the Vasai state that would have power to rein in the Grottoes Office (or indeed any other office). The division of power in the Senate makes it difficult for the Senate to act with that level of decisiveness.
Presence The Grottoes Office is like any other entity - its force of will is dependent on who is in office. In nearly all cases, it wants to maintain a light hand, but not so light as to be misunderstood. It will assuredly act to ensure that Lydians and Ochu are kept separated. They are like social police. There are no formal entities that could limit the power of the Officers. Other offices, however, will act if they feel that the Grottoesmen are getting too powerful. They won’t act if they feel the Grottoes Office is acting too brutally.