The Leidoviks (LEY-do-veeks) (s. Leidovik, adj. Leidovik) are the barbarian inhabitants of a bleak stretch of land in southern Oest, known as Leido’s Waste, which forms a natural buffer between the Gaurik and Scallingerland.
Leidoviks are tribal shepherds and hunters that lead a nomadic existence, traveling what sparse pastures and hunting grounds their ancestral lands offer. They often feud among themselves because of territorial disputes or ancient grudges, but the tribes have in the past united against external danger. They refer to themselves as “Leidoviks” or “Leido’s Sons”; the Yslings and Gaufolk refer to them simply as “Hill-Men”
In terms of military and technology, the Leidoviks are weak. However, since they live on land that serves as a buffer between the two mightiest realms of Oest, they have been left alone so far by both sides as any attempt to annex Leido’s Waste would be seen by the other side as a provocation.
In story Priests & Kings
What few scholars have taken cursory interest in the Leidoviks assume they are the result of mixed Stedda and Ulder bloodlines. The Leidoviks themselves keep no records at all, let alone on such matters. However, their descent is plain to see: the Leidoviks have light skin like that of the Yslings of Scallingerland and the early Stedda. Like the Ulder, they are dark of eyes, hair, and beard. The Leidoviks are tall, like the Ulder, reaching six feet with ease; women are only marginally shorter. Generally, the Leidoviks are fair to look upon, but they are savage and unkempt.
Leidoviks have few customs in terms of appearance. Both men and women tend to wear their hair long, braiding it or binding it with leather thongs for convenience. Among several tribes, the men are known to shave their heads from time to time, and the women use that hair to weave patterns onto a wooden frame. These items, known as “fleshkeepers”, are worn when hunting or going to war. They are supposed to curse whoever would dare to eat the flesh of its bearer, should he fall, and thus serve as a deterrent to cannibals. Additionally, since metals are scarce among the Leidoviks, binding the hair or beard with metal rings or wearing metal earrings is almost universally considered a display of wealth among the tribes.
The Leidoviks clothe themselves mainly in furs, wools, and leathers. They have little access to other fabrics, although they sometimes receive gifts of woven fabrics from the Yslings, with whom they have friendlier relations than with the Gaufolk. Leidoviks also decorate their skin with tattoos that are supposed to emulate scars and simple runes. The runes invoke their ancestor-gods and protect them in battle, while the scar-like tattoos show what wounds their ancestors bore, displaying their the bravery and prowess of their bloodline, or serve as an imitation of the scars caused by the wounds the Leidoviks inflicted on themselves in the past as part of their religious rites.
Leidovik society, like Leidovik life, is simple and brutal. Generally, those who are strongest determine what is law; the weak receive little or no protection. Some tribes may have laws or customs that regulate behavior, especially violent behavior, but even those will still allow violence and bloodshed as a means of dispute resolution or advancement.
As such, a Leidovik has as many rights and liberties as they can claim and defend. A strong Leidovik may have taken much, from others and from the wild, and may be free to do as they please, bowing their head only to the chieftain. Weak Leidoviks serve, and they are wise to do so in silence. Most Leidovik tribes keep slaves—which they call ‘thralls’ after Ysling custom—and allow the stronger to thus bind the weaker to them. As for the spoken word, the Leidoviks have a challenge that is often uttered, “my fist for your tongue”, used when one wishes to counter a verbal insult—perceived or otherwise—with physical violence.
The major unit of social structure among the Leidoviks is the tribe or clan: a federation of several families who have historically associated and claim ancestry from one of the Blooded Fourteen, the ancestor-gods of the Leidoviks. At birth, each Leidovik has a place in their tribe: the child of the chieftain will be the next chieftain; children of slaves will be slaves. However, time, effort, and chance may affect such positions: a chieftain’s heir may be challenged and their position taken; a slave may be freed by their master or by one who defeats their master. While there is by law or custom no distinction between men and women among the Leidoviks, most chieftains are men. The tribes of the Leidoviks are not united; they feud and fight, settling grudges and disputes over territory with force more often as not.
After the tribe comes the family, the next unit of social cohesion in the Leidovik way of life. Leidoviks are expected to care for the weak in their family, although they are not expected to do so without reciprocity: a family may oust any who fail to do whatever is within their power to aid the family and whose continued welfare becomes a disproportional burden to the tribe and the family. As such, the Leidoviks are known to send the infirm and the elderly into the wild if they drain too many of the tribe’s resources. There, they may survive for as long as their skills allow them.
Religion also plays a part in Leidovik society. Since the day is sacred in the rites of Leido Sunchaser, most rituals are conducted during the day. For some clans, religious rituals involve cannibalistic customs, usually drinking the blood of a clan elder or champion, and human sacrifice. Nighttime is a time of evil to the Leidoviks, and they are loath to undertake any activities other than dwelling in their tents and guarding their most prized possessions.
The Leidoviks are not technologically advanced, nor have they access to many resources. There is iron and copper in the hills of Leido’s Waste, but the Leidoviks lack the skill and, being nomadic, the forges and smithies to work them well. Some clans still mainly use flint and obsidian for tools, neither of which Leido’s Waste lacks. Leidovik daily life is nomadic; horses, pack animals, slaves, and herd animals are most valuable among them; tents, tools, and sturdy clothes second. Leidoviks lack currency; they barter with each other and, occasionally, with others: they easily find buyers for wool, fur, and leather among Yslings and Gaufolk.
Leidovik history is not well documented. According to their own lore, they are the descendants of the Blooded Fourteen, who are in turn the sons of the god Leido Sunchaser, who freed them from captivity by the Earth Children. Their tales do not tell much more than that.
The few scholars that have taken an, albeit limited, interest in the Leidoviks assume that the Earth-Children were the Etter. Descriptions of the Earth-Children in Leidovik myth, while blown up, affirm this. The Etter held several outposts and garrisons in Leido’s Waste, which served as staging points and lines of defense against the Yslings who resisted Etter rule. The slaves there may have been Stedda and Ulder and were the ancestors of the Leidoviks.
After the Etter dwindled, the Leidoviks took control of Leido’s Waste. The Sormans (and later the Aedligs) kept the Leidoviks out of the north but had little interest in the bleak lands of Leido’s Waste itself, while the Leidoviks did not have the skill to navigate the coves, firths, rivers, and islands of Scallingerland, although Ysling records state that the Leidoviks made several attempts at invasion over the centuries. As such, the Leidoviks were bound to their barren land. They failed to unite and thus lacked the strength to assert dominance over the only enemies they would have some chance against: the Ringarind Gyta of the eastern plains. On the other hand, any attempt at conquest of the Leidoviks was deemed too risky by the civilized nations: the land was worthless, and the Leidoviks knew it too well. They would strike from hill and forest, only to hide before one could respond in kind.
Due to the inhospitable nature of both their lands and themselves, the Leidoviks began to function as a buffer between the two mightiest civilizations: those of the Yslings and the Gaufolk. The Yslings especially profited from this as their skill as navigators and naval superiority allowed them to raid deep into the Gaurik without fear of reprisal over land, where the strength of the Gaurik lay.
This situation persists to this day, with both powers reluctant to lay claim to Leido’s Waste and risk open war. However, as open war between Yslings and Gaufolk becomes inevitable, this situation may not last and the Leidoviks may find they will need to fight for their land. Even if united it seems highly unlikely the Leidoviks would win; divided, their fall seems guaranteed.
The Leidoviks practice a form of ancestor worship. Their ceremonies revolve around Leido Sunchaser, their common ancestor, and his fourteen sons, the founding fathers of the tribes of the Leidoviks.
According to Leidovik myth, Leido saw how his sons were enslaved by the Earth-Children and sought their freedom. He bargained with the Sun for the strength to free them. The Sun, moved by Leido’s passionate plea, gave him unfathomed might and immortality, but only for a single day. Using his newfound power, Leido freed his sons. He then asked them to open his heart and drink of his blood to absorb some of his power. Being immortal, Leido would survive. Thus, Leido’s sons became the Blooded Fourteen. Together, they overthrew the Earth Children in a single day. Immediately thereafter, Leido set to following the Sun so that the day would never end, his power would never wane, and his many wounds would never kill him.
The religion of the Leidoviks revolves around strength in combat and the magical power of blood, scars, and the prowess and renown of their forefathers. Leidoviks honor the memory of their strong ancestors and through great deeds remove the stain of weaker ancestors from their bloodlines. In the past, many tribes had cannibalistic rituals in which they drank the blood of the strongest to absorb their strength and poisoned their rivals with the blood of the weakest to weaken them in turn. Most tribes no longer practice such rites.
The worship of Leido Sunchaser, the Blooded Fourteen, and other honored ancestors takes place during the day, which is the holiest of times for the Leidoviks, for they believe Leido Sunchaser walks among them in the sunlight. Night, on the other hand, is the foulest of times. Many Leidoviks believe the evil Earth-Children still roam free at night, and they prefer to stay in their tents, which they ward from evil with charms invoking the Blooded Fourteen (but never Leido, since he chases the sun and is not present at night). Some tribes still practice cannibalistic rituals and drink each other’s blood in imitation of Leido blooding his sons. The self-inflicted wounds are made in patterns to create scars of ritual meaning. Most clans have abandoned this practice and now tattoo their bodies in imitation of such scars.
Every full moon, the Leidoviks hold a feast to celebrate Leido. Originally, they would dress a prisoner from another clan or—if such were lacking—a thrall as Leido and make them recite Leido’s promise to the Sun. Thus, they would trick the Sun into believing the prisoner or thrall to be Leido. They would then sacrifice this person, usually by burying or burning them alive. So deceived, the Sun would not hunt Leido, and Leido would be able to feast with his people through the night. Not many clans today still perform this human sacrifice. Instead, they fashion a man out of wicker or straw and burn or bury that instead. The more remote and especially savage tribes still engage in the old ritual and scorn those who don’t as faithless cowards.
The Leidoviks consider other religions sacrilege. Missionaries of the Gaufolk have met cruel fates when visiting Leido’s Waste. However, there is a small number of Leidoviks every year who set out from Leido’s Waste and travel the world, sometimes settling elsewhere. These are exiles, outcasts, escapees, or simply those stricken with wanderlust. Some may adopt the religious customs of foreigners; others may stay true to Leido and the Blooded Fourteen.
Leidoviks are isolationist; they do not often choose to meddle in the affairs of others. They most often come into conflict with the Gyta of the plains, the Ringarind, with whom they share borders and territory. At times, bands of Leidoviks raid into the Gaurik and Scallingerland, but this usually results in harsh reprisals. Since the Gaufolk and Yslings are technologically much more advanced than the Leidoviks, most Leidoviks prefer not to come into conflict with them.
The relations of Leidoviks—with foreigners but also among themselves—are marked by distrust and fear. The Leidoviks are not tolerant; they are quick to judge and default to fighting or fleeing. Only rarely do they engage in diplomacy, and then only of the crudest sort, preferring a discussion on clear boundaries beyond which each must keep to their own; they foster no alliances or partnerships. Their relations with the Ringarind Gyta are especially hostile, as the Leidoviks vie with the Ringarind for the control of several territories.
On rare occasions, the tribes have united. One such occasion is the Three-Day Battle, when a punitive expedition of Sormans went into Leido’s Waste to revenge their kinsmen fallen in a Leidovik raid. The Leidoviks pushed back the Sormans and laid waste to several villages and a walled town before they returned to the hills.
However, of late the Leidoviks have had more fruitful relations with the Yslings. Altogether, Ysling raids into Leidovik territory and vice versa have come to a near halt. Some Yslings have even traveled into Leido’s Waste to train the Leidoviks. Although it would be too much to call this aid an alliance, it is easy to see that the Yslings seek to win over the Leidoviks in anticipation of armed conflict with the Gaurik; after all, safe passage through Leido’s Waste will mean a land route into the Gaurik for the Yslings, while Leidovik vigilance may keep safe the Yslings from a Gaufolk invasion by land or at least secure ample warning beforehand. The Gaufolk have made similar attempts to court the Leidoviks in the past, but the Gaufolk’s tolerance of and cooperation with the Gyta and their easy use of magic cause distrust of their ways and intentions among the Leidoviks.
The Leidoviks rule Leido’s Waste, a vast stretch of barren land between the Gaurik and Scallingerland. It is hilly, rocky, and forested, with soil unsuited for agriculture. To the north, the border with the Gaurik consists mainly of forests and the River Kornagund. In the west, Leido’s Waste ends in the Mothersea. Most of the coastal areas are made up of cliffs, although there are small coves and inlets. To the south, Leido’s Waste transitions into Scallingerland through a labyrinthine series of wetlands, firths, and inlets. To the east, the hills of Leido’s Waste flatten and become the Tavalin, the plains of the Ringarind Gyta, a greener but still rugged territory. The Leidoviks build no cities or settlements. However, throughout Leido’s Waste ancient fortresses of the Etter still stand, usually built in places to command fords, great hills, or other strategic locations.
The Leidoviks speak a language with elements of Bysprak and Ard’Teanga that is also rich with Jazak and Landwort influences. However, compared to these other languages, the Leidovik tongue is very simple, and the vocabulary would certainly not suffice for scholars. The language is simply known as Hill-Speak. Very few outside Leido’s Waste speak it. More commonly, Leidoviks will have some among their number who know a smattering of Landwort for dealing with Gaufolk, Sydlig for dealing with Yslings, and—rarely—Tavalini for dealing with the Ringarind Gyta.
The Stedda heritage of the Leidoviks is most obvious in their naming customs. Male children receive a patronymic surname with the suffix -vik; female children a matronymic surname with the suffix -vika. Both receive a given name, which may be the same as the radical used for the surname. Additionally, a tribal name is bestowed upon the child. While this is originally a Stedda custom, the Sormans today only practice it among the nobility.
|Religion||Leido Sunchaser and the Blooded Fourteen|