Myros - Cultures (Atherton)
Drawing its name from the Old Nuric province of Atherix, the plains of Atherton are well-watered and fertile. Not surprisingly, the humans who dwell here are famous for their quality horsemanship and husbandry; it is rumored that their horses have been cross-bred with fey mounts belonging to the Elves of Tanglewoode. Many jest that there are four horses for every two-legged inhabitant of the province; much of that jest is rooted in truth.
Atherton’s equine heritage traces back to the days of the Old Empire, when the Imperial Legion drafted its finest cavalry from this province. It was that same cavalry that defended the area after the imperial withdrawal. The provincial history dates to the withdrawal; records of Atherton’s early years as an independent nation are kept in the Temple of Avandra, where the faith held its headquarters in the days of the Old Empire.
In recognition of the pivotal role played by the animal in Atheric defense, commerece and agriculture, the horse enjoys a near-sacred status in the culture’s art, literature, architecture and religion, as the Atherites view horses as a gift from Avandra.
The Atherites are a fiercely independent people, who value individual freedom above all else. Like the horses they venerate, Atherites embody an untamed spirit, and they view their considerable military capability as the means to provide that freedom to weaker people. Atherites view incarceration as a more severe sentence than death.
Not surprisingly, social status in Atherton is enhanced for those involved in equine-related trades. Horse breeders are considered among the social elite, and all noble houses have extensive stable facilities. Cavalry soldiers form the rest of the upper class, with farriers, grooms and stablemen chief among craftsmen. Merchants, infantry soldiers and most townsmen form the middle class.
The province – the boundaries of which are somewhat vague – is governed by a syndicracy of noble houses, each of which is descended from one of the Nuric cavalry heroes who ultimately founded Atherton. Ever suspicious of permanent authority, the houses select one of their number to serve as Lord Protector for a five-year term.
Slavery is legal in Atherton, although that fate is typically reserved for debtors or humanoid prisoners; most slave labor involves maintenance of military installations and repairing the network of Nuric roads, which are in much the same condition as they were during the days of the Old Empire.
Culturally, the Atherites are suspicious of authority, viewing the Draconic legal code of the Nurites as a confining, corruptive influence that utlimately led to the fall of the empire. They are similarly suspicious of ancient magic and artifiacts. A popular adage among the Atherites is that “there are laws that enslave men, and laws that set them free.”
There are a number of social customs unique to Atherton, including:
*People are expected to ride mounts of a gender matching their own. While most Atherites can know a horse’s gender from hundreds of feet away, it is customary for the manes of mares to be braided as a courtesy. It is a common practice to humiliate male criminals by making them ride mares to court or sentencing proceedings.
*Although the legal code in Atherton is a loosely-defined conglomerate of precedent-setting case decisions, the law is highly protective or horses; while using horses as mounts or beasts of burden is an acceptable use of Avandra’s gift, cruelty to a horse in punishable by five years of imprisonment – the same sentence as an assault upon the person of the Lord Protector himself.
*Women wear their hair tightly braided, because (1) noble women always ride horses, and loose hair quickly becomes unmanageable after a ride, and (2) braided hair helps prevent any distractions or vulnerabilities during combat. Only promiscuous women publicly wear unbraided hair in Atherite culture.
*Atherish fashions are very distinctive. Fur linings and earth tones characterize Atherish dress. Virtually everyone wears pants – a necessity for riding – and other garments tend to be long and flowing, with extensive draping. Elvish styles and horse motifs are common themes in Atherish clothing.
Atherish exports include grain, horses, leather goods, peat and ales.
The province is the only human civilization to have diplomatic relations with the Elves of Tanglewoode.