Nation of Legends
Journal of Heironymous Justium, Chapter 03, The Nari
The fox-men. The traveling merchants. The peddlers of subterfuge. The vicious, black spirits. I have traveled to the lands of the Nari, and they are all of these things and more. Now, so that you may understand the masks that they wear, I will share what I have learned.
Nar’thune is the homeland of the Nari, which literally translates to ‘travelers on the surface of Nar’thune’ in their language. The meaning of Nar’thune itself is not entirely clear to me, as the Nari describe it as a land of fortune, a land of curses, a land of fate, and a land of refuge, with no seeming disconnect between all four of those concepts. This is typical of the Nari; they will say one thing and mean four or five others alongside it.
Nar’Thune stretches along the entire peninsula of mists, then to the base of the mountains to the south, at the beginning of the peninsula, and through the Autumnblood forest to the south banks of the Rocksplitter river. The Nari live in traveling clans, with no permanent settlements. There are seven different clans, each of which sub-divide into different traveling groups, so that no one clan of Nari, and no large block of population are ever found in the same place. They travel broadly across their own territory, but also into the neighboring realms of the Gweet, the Garsh, the Daathi, and the Altrua. Within their own territory, the Nari will trade and exchange knowledge and intermarry between the clans.
The Nari also lay claim to the Silent Trio to the south of the Peninsula, though the history of that region is a source of sorrow that the Nari do not discuss with outsiders. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to persuade my hosts to divulge the source of this belief to me.
Nari come in a broad variety of sizes, and during my time with them, I observed many different physical variations. They range in height from five and a half feet to three and a half feet, and weight varies from nearly two hundred pounds for the largest of the warrior caste to less than seventy for the smallest of the Nari. Their fur ranges from white, to light gray, to oranges and reds, to browns. Most have black or dark brown fur on their feet, hands, and the tips of their ears, though some lighter colored Nari have gray or red in those places instead. All Nari have green eyes, the color of new foliage in the spring, with vertical slits in place of pupils.
Nari also typically possess a combination of piercings and dyed hair, with the combination of the two indicating caste, status, and past history. The exact method of this communication is unclear to me, and the Nari explanations were typically unhelpful and contradictory. However, as a general rule, the more piercings and the less dye, the more likely a Nari is to be a merchant or a scavenger, and the more dye and less piercings, the more likely a Nari is to be a warrior or from the scholarly caste. This is not always true, however, but the Nari take no offense at being asked by outsiders what caste they are from.
Lastly, Nari are almost uniformly graceful, quick, and agile. With rare exceptions, often due to injury or age, the Nari can easily outrun and outmaneuver the other races of the continent. I have seen a Nari outpace a Garsh in a footrace with shocking ease, I have seen Nari children juggle knives without a blink of concern from their parents, and I have witnessed a Nari scout leap across a thirty foot wide ravine. Those who deal with Nari merchants, thieves, or warriors should be aware of this, as the Nari will use it to their advantage wherever possible.
On this topic, the Nari were frustratingly tight-lipped. Though they are willing to express some basic tenets to outsiders, it is clear that questions on the topic were not going to be answered directly, and often lead to answers that made things less clear than if no question had been asked in the first place.
All I can offer as guidance is the following: the Nari believe in a spirit of the world, and the world is composed of both the world of the living and the world of the dead. It’s unclear to me if they believe they return from the dead, or if death is a continuation of life, or if they simply believe the transition between the states is natural, but they do not fear death in the same way as other races. They also believe they have existed eternally, and will exist eternally, though precisely what this means to me is unclear. Lastly, sometime in their past, an event which lead to the belief that they are cursed occurred, though the words they use are a varying composition of hope, fear, and distress, so I am unclear as to the magnitude of this event, or the possibility of it being reversed.
One event that the Nari will speak of with outsiders is the fall of the lone city of the Nari. Its construction was begun roughly three hundred years ago, under the auspices of a Nari merchant named Azrei. The city was to have been divided into seven areas for each clan, shaped in a rough circle, and situated on the shore on the northern tip of the westernmost member of the Silent Trio. The city remains, half-built and abandoned, as the clans fell to infighting and bickering when Azrei died unexpectedly, his grand vision for the greatest city of commerce collapsed with his death. Nari clans still travel to the city and use it as a staging point, in the typical swift sailboats of Nari merchants, but the city often sits abandoned, avoided by all other than the Nari, for reasons none of my hosts would explain. Again.
If you are growing frustrated that my journal repeatedly states that the Nari often speak in self-contradictory riddles or fail to divulge key details, you would have the correct impression of how I felt during many of my conversations with them. The Nari are entertaining and charismatic, but often at the end of conversations, one is left with the impression that they have said nothing, and done so deliberately.
Relations with other races:
As a general rule, the Nari maintain at least neutral relations with each of the great races on the continent. Their extroverted nature and the desire to trade keep them in the good graces of some, while their thieving nature and unusual ways often cause friction with outsiders. On the whole, most races judge traveling Nari to be more beneficial than harmful, so long as they do not stay too long or steal anything too valuable, as their wide ranging travel gives them access to many goods that would otherwise be unavailable to their trading partners.
Gweets and Nari have a particularly strong bond, as the magical nature, natural curiosity, and inclination to trade of the Gweets make them a natural pairing with the Nari. The latter often set up camp near Gweet cities and stay for an extended period, as both the Nari and the Gweet enjoy the company of each other. Perhaps related is the fact that many things which would normally be stolen by Nari are not in this case, as Gweet goods made for other Gweet are simply too small for the Nari to care about.
Daathi and Nari typically form largely cordial, but neutral relationships. The concept of a slave race is somewhat abhorrent to Nari sensibility, and my discussions with them about the Daathi revealed that the Nari typically regard them as useful trading partners, and they are willing to deal with individual Daathi without prejudice, but their cultural inclinations are a source of friction between the two groups. Similarly, the Daathi have a somewhat adversarial relationship with Nari thieves, so Nari trading expeditions into Daathi lands are often fast-moving, with multiple short stays to avoid retribution for their theft.
Altrua, as both a race and in individual cases, often have some degree of mutual interest and some degree of friction with the Nari. Though Nari have a strong sense of honor, their ideals do not line up with our beliefs, and as a result, our code of righteous laws aligns very poorly with the Nari beliefs. They are stubborn and individualistic, and unwilling to see that the order provided by our code could be of great benefit to both sides. Instead, while they make excellent traders and often provide us with goods from remote settlements in other lands, they transgress against our laws frequently and then refuse to suffer the just consequences, while the Altrua beliefs are often judged to be deeply offensive to the Nari.
Garsh are often simultaneously in conflict with the Nari and trading with them. The frequent bandit attacks of the Garsh are typically fended off with ease by Nari convoys, which are used to defending themselves across a multitude of locales. Also, the Nari willingness to utilize poisons, which often leads to the death of those wounded in such assaults even if they were successful, typically makes Nari caravans unappealing targets for the Garsh. Even so, attacks happen, and the Nari respond viciously in kind; more than one Garsh village has been wiped out by Nari in retribution for the slaying of Nari. On the flip side of the coin, the Garsh often acquire through force many goods that the Nari will trade for, and often Nari emissaries and merchants negotiate truces and peace treaties between Garsh bandits and the other races. Typically this takes the form of the Garsh being paid to leave, with the Nari pocketing some amount for doing the work of convincing the Garsh to move on.
Culture and Behavior:
Nari are extroverted, cunning, curious, and often have an air of bemusement with reality. They can be sensation seekers, and nothing I have encountered in my travels is more dangerous than a bored Nari.
As a result, their culture leans heavily towards satisfying these desires. Commercial success is a virtue amongst the Nari, works of literature and oral performance are lauded, they have a complicated code of property rights that allows acquisition via theft (a sore spot with many other races), and the majority of Nari travel constantly with their clan. Most Nari are merchants, explorers, hunters, foragers, or tinkerers. Their magic users tend to favor experimentation and self-discovery over rote learning, and their warriors favor surprise, ranged combat, and maneuverability to the more brute-force fighting style of the Garsh.
With outsiders, or Gotai, the Nari are extroverted, friendly, generous hosts, and pernicious thieves. I had multiple possessions taken from me during my time with them, and never expect to see them again. Despite that, the good company and warm nature of the Nari makes it clear that such acts are not intended to be insults in their mind, but it is difficult for them to understand that the other races do not feel the same way. In the end, though, the Nari are private about their beliefs, the structure of their clans, and their history with outsiders. Even after three months with a single clan, I was unable to convince them to open up on these topics, and I do not know if they would have, had I spent more time with them.