~ Altankora ~
Altankora is made up of many volcanic islands and a lush costal rim around a dry, arid mainland. The country is in a state of constant expansion, with the many active volcanoes adding more and more to the landmass on a yearly basis. The growth is slow, but definite.
Above: Map of the world.
Due to the volcanic nature of the land, the islands experience many small earthquakes on a regular basis. The people of Altankora would always insist it is their patron god, Vakosh, crushing the skull of another enemy into the floor.
Altankorans are a fiery, hardy people that define their political structures and respect on those who are strongest, fastest and most lethal. For both the Khun and the Uliuli, the land is split up into tribes, led by their Khan, who construct small settlements engineered to withstand the earthquakes which they endure frequently.
The soil of Altankora is full of minerals and nourishment untapped by flora and thus is coveted by the men and women of Olvany for treatments and medicine making and Tantian for their fields, for which they trade back harvest. As the climate is so in hospitable for the large majority of the country, they rely on herding instead of farming crops.
They also pride themselves in the craft of many large and loud drums and other musical instruments using bone, hide and woods.
The people of Altankora are divided into two 'sets'. There are the Khun and the Uliuli. They are two sides of the same coin; vastly different, but able to co-exist rather peacefully considering the volatile nature of Altankorians.
Altankora has the most turbulent of political structures. Their culture is based upon martial order and strength, so their Khan must also be the strongest and most capable. Many of the towns, gatherings and cities choose their own Khan through grand competitions and feats of strength.
Often, there have been bloody battles to the death over positions of power. It is not unusual for the title to change hands several times in a year.
The Khun are mostly plain-wanderers, watching over their animals and collecting milks for nutrition and wools for much needed warmth.
They revere the land and the fire within it, believing the body of Altankora is that of Vakosh, their patron deity. To the Khun, mountains are the stairways to the realm of the gods and are not only means of navigation but also are the stage for an array of trials and religious offerings.
The Khun have strict trials for those in their clans. Those wishing to transition from child to adult must first pass a test. The test is to climb the highest and fiercest active volcano as high as possible and coat your armour with the ash in the soil and return.
Those who climb the highest, most fierce volcanoes earn the most respect in the society and have better chances of proving themselves in the ever going-power struggle for Khan.
The Khun are blasted by ferocious winds from the mountains and thus cover themselves in thick hides, wools and furs to protect their skin.
They have traded various resources, such as fur and milk, with the Uliuli for Heiau resin to help further windproof their garments.
The Uliuli are named after the pristine blue waters which they gravitate towards. The Uliuli people dwell on and in the coastal cliffs above the black-sand beaches surrounding a band of green. As the Uliuli are avid climbers, they scale the cliffs with ease, often holding competitions to see how quickly one can scale particularly steep cliff edges.
The Uliuli have access to to things the Khun do not; the vast ocean and the thin lush band of green. They have long tended both as precious resources. The Uliuli use the lightweight woods available to them to craft collapsable piers and small rafts for fishing, having hollowed out native Pele (a large gourd-type fruit) for added buoyancy and support.
The Uliuli choose their Khan in a different way to the Khun. Their test is to fetch the largest piece of Moanapohaku from the ocean they can using very little in the way of tools. Moanapohaku is a dark, dense and incredibly strong type of stone found only in Altankora and the surrounding waters.
The Uliuli grow cotton in Oma'omalepo, the green band between the mountains and the black cliffs. They weave with the cotton and trade the threads for wool with the Khun. They are able to waterproof their clothing with the thick resins from the trees of Oma'omalepo called Heiau, providing them protection against wind and rain.
Because of the water-proofing technology, the cliffside villages are protected from most of the wind and rain the turbulent seas can throw at them during the 'dark sky season' - Ele'elelani.
During Ele'elelani, most of the villagers collapse the temporary buildings on the cliff-faces and retreat to Oma'omalepo. Here, they not only survive, but celebrate the typhoons passing over and around them. The Heiau trees are incredibly flexible and large domes can be constructed by anchoring them together and covering the top with leaves stuck together with the Heiau resins and scraps of thread and fabrics.
Maintaining the belief Altankora is the body of Vakosh, nothing goes to waste. Everything that comes from his body is recycled or 'given back' in a ceremony known as 'Mahalo', literally meaning 'With Thanks'.
Honouring The Gods
Though Vakosh is almost constantly unhappy with both Sothaal and Nasni, the people of Altankora prefer to honour them all.
Altankoranians create circles of 'God-sticks', each carved and coloured to represent each god - for example Nasni's god-stick would be coated with white sand from the beaches or pigment ground from bones to represent the snow, where as the stick for Athus and Athal would be knotted together in order to show their bond.
Offerings would be made to each effigy, depending on what the tribe needed at the time. Offerings were often tailored to the needs and wants of the gods, but general offerings of fish, bones, precious materials and craft items would also be made depending on what the tribe had to give.