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it is currently season 1, the year 1449 NE. The continent of Tnarem balances on a precarious edge between survival and destruction. Wars rage between nations, fractures open in the Mete. The world as the Tnaremi people know it is dying and they are left with a choice: act or perish with it.

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the Sovereign Marks
the marks, the reach


W
ealth reigns supreme in the Ostian Federation of Sovereign Marks. Opulence is the way of worship for not only their Temple but for their culture. Lavish parties, grandiose manners, philanthropy, patronage--any means of flaunting wealth is taken and is revered. As is the mindset that one must do whatever they can to obtain and maintain their fortunes. One of the oldest regions in Tnarem, Ostia has enjoyed an existence of near-uninterrupted freedom, and with the combination of that and their seafaring ways, they have been able to establish a broad trade net that extends down the western coast of Tnarem as well as across the sea to foreign continents.


A guilt culture, Ostia has maintained its rigorous conservationism despite its conversion to Templarism, a notable difference between it and its sister nation, Dubhion. Little of the Mercian ways that are embedded in the temple have permeated Ostian culture, and the distinct line created has led to a contradiction in cultural moral teaching and the relatively socially lax teachings of the Temple (in relation to the social norms of Ostia).

Views on the sovereign marks

Greed is always the first word those who wish to criticize the Markish use, and not without good reason. The region is known for its prowess in commercial endeavors and its historically cut-throat tactics used to ensure its spot at the top of the market. The people of Ostia are thought to be shrewd businessmen who both covet their coin and spend it lavishly. That greed extends beyond gold to many other things: political power, resources, land. Markish avarice knows no bounds. That is perhaps because they believe they are best suited to maximising the use of these gifts, another trait they are known for, their pride. Lastly, they are known for their extreme social conservativism, something that stands in stark contrast to their economic liberal leanings.


Social Class

Unlike the rest of Tnarem, the Sovereign Marks are not ruled by nobility. There is a distinct lack of birthright power in Ostia, though that is not to say that there is no ruling class. The right to rule is earned rather inherited, even though those who have carved out their parts of the Markish government certainly seem to no longer earn such. Because there is no legality to social class, in theory moving between the rungs is an easier, more fluid process, however, that is not necessarily true. The Marks are dominated by the ability to exert influence and power, and without money and resources, you're unable to climb. Free trade and lax mercantile law afford those born with just enough to perhaps count themselves among the same ranks as the Ruadh family.

Nobility

There is no nobility in the Marks. No one is born with the right to rule, there is no legal birthright to any power. This inherent right has been replaced by the right to rule via power and means.

Gentry

Ostia is ruled by its gentry. The wealthy merchant families of Ostia have all but ascended to nobility while still remaining technically part of the gentry class. While typically narrow, this rung on the social ladder is made even more so in the Marks, the wealth of the region consolidated into the hands of only a handful of families who have monopolized areas of business not only in Ostia, but throughout Tnarem. What would typically be considered gentry has become part of the common class, and the income and wealth gap between the majority of society and this gentry elite is wider than in any other nation in Tnarem.

Commoners

The largest population in the Marks and the largest variation in what is considered "common" in all of Tnarem, the commoners of Ostia are a diverse group. They range from skilled workers to beggars, encompassing everything in between. The ability to consider yourself gentry in the Marks is not something afforded to many, and as a result, most are considered commoners and falling into this rung does not carry the pitiable reputation that it might in other regions.
People

Fair yet sun-touched, the people of the Sovereign Marks generally tend to possess sandy brown or dusty blonde hair, either gently touched with waves or completely sleek. Lean frames, defined jaws, and high cheekbones give them a sculpted, regal appearance, though they do not stand at any great height in comparison to people of other regions in Tnarem. Men stand at a respectable 5’7” to 5’11 on average, while women reach a modest 5’3” to 5’8”. Marks people possess a number of different eye colors, ranging from brown to green to hazel to grey, and some rare few people closer to the Dubhian border even have blue eyes. Though skin tones will always be of fair complexion, some citizens in the southern Marks bronze more easily in the sun than those further north, a feature shared by their Mercian neighbors.

Fashion

Although conservative in conduct, Ostians are hardly drab dressers. The fashions of high society are a marvel of their own. Women prefer large, overly full skirts that flow and train, worn beneath floor-length bodices open in the front to allow the contrasting skirts to show. Bell sleeves, loose on the arms and bubbled at the shoulder, are also common among both women and the men. The fabrics used are lighter than those of Lornesse but heavier than those found in the southern Houses; doublets and gowns alike feature fine silk or light brocade in heavy colors, bold jewels, and gold trimmings. The addition of high and elaborate sheer collars beneath gowns and doublets has recently come into style.

Ostian hair is also elaborate. Piles of braids, twists, curls, and jeweled strands adorn the women, while the men are expected to keep their choice of style sleek and away from their faces. Headdresses and hats are not common, but a woman is expected to make her hair a piece of headwear in and of itself with ever-shifting styles of up-dos. Wearing the hair down in court is seen as uncouth as if no effort was put into one's appearance. Select and specific bits of hair being left down at the nape of the neck is acceptable and even trending toward the norm, but a full head of hair left down is the Ostian equivalent of rolling out of bed and not bothering to brush your hair before going out.

Hygiene

In the Marks, bathing is an infrequent habit except at the highest levels of society, where time for grooming is more abundant. Even the social elite bathe less frequently than those in other parts of Tnarem, finding it unnecessary in a naturally cool, damp coastal environment where sweating is rarely a concern. For deodorant, the region’s impressive conifer forests provide ingredients for balsam sachets, which women place between their breasts beneath corsets or nestle inside their intricate hairstyles. Men place similar sachets in special pockets sewn into the lining of their doublets. Floral perfumes, similar to those found in Lornesse, are also used but are less common.
Norms & Mores

Gender Roles

In keeping with the northern Temple’s teachings of women's subservience to men, the fairer sex can find the Marks to be an extremely repressive place. Women are not permitted to hold political office and they cannot, under any save for the most extreme circumstances, own any sort of wealth or property. If unwed, women will always be the property of the head of their family, or of their husband if wed. Unlike in the Reiux, women in Ostia are not protected in their marriages from their husband's mistreatment. Oftentimes, the blame of abuse is put on the woman for not behaving as she should. In the instance of the rape of an unwed woman, the rapist, should he be found to be guilty of such a crime, owes the father of the woman the equivalent of what would be her dowry, so as to compensate the family for any loss of potential gain.

Women are ubiquitously held to a higher standard of chastity, they are expected to be entirely subservient to men with an emphasis on portraying themselves as agreeable and modest. Ostia is therefore most repressive culture toward women in the entirety of Tnarem.

Importance of the Theater

Despite Ostia’s rigid religiosity, they are still great lovers of beauty, spectacles, and the arts. Theatrical performances historically were put on in Ostia by traveling theatre troupes who reenacted religious stories complete with all the gore that accompanied them, but in later years other stories – ones of war, glory, and even romance – were written for the stage. Today, theatre troupes are usually funded by the patronage of powerful families wishing to gain publicity for their business and demonstrate their wealth to their competition. These troupes are then invited to perform at their patrons’ manor home for a large gathering of guests. The majority of troupes are made up of trained actors and actresses, though arts-minded members of the wealthiest class have been known to treat theatre as a personal hobby. While they would never join a theatre troupe themselves, they may commission a performance with themselves in a starring role. This is a rarity, as most patrons prefer enjoying the passive prestige of their patronage rather than lowering themselves to work among the common rabble.

In recent years, Lorient has begun to set the stage for a new era of performance. The construction of the Solar Theatre, a large, circular shaped theatre in the center of the city, completed only five years earlier and capable of accommodating up to two thousand people, now houses a troupe of players known as the Marksmen who are patronized by the Ruadh family. Just the concept of a theatre this size is newfangled, but what is particularly different is the fact that admission is made affordable enough that even the common folk are able to attend. The cheapest price of admission provides a spot to stand on the floor, while seats are pricier and are generally only attainable by merchants. Considerably wealthy people are able to purchase boxes on the sides of the stage and upper floor, and the Ruadh family have their own private box on the upper floor, center.

Plays performed at the Solar are written by the troupe’s playwright Carter Wrenscot, whose epic romantic tragedy Tristan and Felicia gained him both notoriety and infamy. The play, which features two lovers outside of wedlock, does ultimately end in both of the characters’ tragic demise as a cautionary tale against such foolishness, but it is considered by some to be shocking and filthy. Nevertheless, Tristan and Felicia, as well as Wrenscot’s other plays, are wildly popular with the common masses.
Religion & Superstition

Adherent to the temple, Ostia has retained much of the cultural influence of the long dead Creatorian Church, blending the current, pervasive teachings of the Temple with the more austere and conservative lifestyle the region enjoys. The importance of religiosity in the region is near unparalleled. Even within Mercia, where none but the Four are accepted, the fervor with which they worship and condemn those who do not hold a candle to the Marks. There is no being nonreligious or nonpracticing. There is no choosing which of the gods you prefer. It is not only the fear of the wrath of the Four that keeps the people of the Marks pious, but also the wrath of one's peers. To be seen as not devout enough is ruinous in Ostian politics, society, and mercantilism.

Read more about the Divine Temple here.

Reultan - Astrology

The practice of Reultan is not exclusive to Ostia, however, it plays an exponentially larger role in the Marks than it does elsewhere. The seafaring nation's reliance on celestial bodies has built a mythos surrounding them that has since spread throughout Tnarem to mingle with the other regions' astrological practices. The Reultan is a way to predict a person's personality, life events, past, future, legacy, destiny, love, to come troubles and everything in between. Star charts, the results periodic readings, and under which zodiac someone was born are all important to an Ostian's first and subsequent impressions of someone.

Cu (the Hound) - January 20 to February 16
Maighdeann (the Maiden) - February 16 to March 11
Reithe (the Ram) - March 11 to April 18
Iasg (the Fish) - April 18 to May 13
Tur (the Tower) - May 13 to June 21
Bhata (the Ship) - June 21 to July 20
Athair (the Father) - July 20 to August 10
Cruth (the Font) - August 10 to September 16
Damh (the Ox) - September 16 to October 30
Cuibhle (the Wheel) - October 30 to November 23
Ros (the Rose) - November 23 to November 29
Ord (the Hammer) - November 29 to December 17
Sealgair (the Huntsman) - December 17 to January 20

Magic

Adherent to the Divine Temple's teachings, Ostia has a dislike for magic, though unlike Dubhion and Mercia, the practice of magic is not illegal and submission to the Augury is not mandatory. Still, many families who find a child is magic-capable will send that child to the Augury either in Dubhion or Mercia. The belief that magic is dangerous and in need of controlling and monitoring is pervasive throughout the region and witches are regarded with a mixture of fear, disdain, and awe.

IMPORTANT: All witches in Ostia must submit to the will of the Augury, meaning if your character is able to cast magic, they will have to incorporate the Augury into their story in some manner. Ostia does not have an Athenaeum of its own so the character will have spent time in either the Dubhion or Mercia Athenaeum. You can read more about the Augury here.
Language

The oldest language on Tnarem, High Markish is the only language that is spoken in all northern regions; Markish is the language that bridges all cultures and, subsequently, unites them. High Markish is lilting and slow, and low Markish harder, having pulled much inspiration from its neighbor regions. In Ostia, most will speak both High and Common Markish, while those in the lower territories of Ostia will speak Common Mercian in addition to their native tongues.

Script (Base) - High Markish (Common Celtic)
Spoken (Secondary) - Common Markish (English), Common Mercian (Italian)

Names

In the Marks, a name consists of three or four parts, depending on whether or not a woman marries into a wealthy or influential family: the given name, the holy name, and the surname. If a woman marries into a family more influential than her own, she will add her husband's surname after hers. Women do not replace their surnames with their husbands' upon marriage in the Marks.


IE. Dorran Varden Kavanagh
"Dorran" being the given name, "Varden" being the holy name, and "Kavanagh" being the surname.

Given names in the Marks usually are chosen based on superstition surrounding what time of year, under which stars, or during which event the child was born. The holy names are chosen from the names of the Great Messengers and are bestowed upon the Nameday Ceremony, when the Nes and Nessa are chosen.

Common Markish Male Names - Aedan, Arwan, Brennus, Caiside, Caomh, Conant, Dorran, Drust, Faelan, Iden, Lir, Macklin, Maedoc, Mael, Morcant, Orin, Owyn, Seisyll, Sloane, Varden, York

Common Markish Female Names - Aife, Aina, Ardra, Cinnia, Deoch, Divone, Ione, Isolde, Medb, Mavis, Morna, Oifa, Ove, Rowena, Selma, Ula, Venetia, Wynne, Yseult

Bastards

Bastards do not have surnames in the Marks, instead, they take their father or mother's first name as their surname with the addition of the "Mac" prefix. The name they take depends on whether or not the father wishes to acknowledge the child. If they do, the child will take the father's name, IE MacCaomh. If the father does not wish to acknowledge the child, it will take the mother's name, IE MacWynne.
Romance & Relationships

Sexuality

As it does in all aspects of Ostian life, the more conservative interpretation of Templarism in the Marks greatly influences their ideas about sexuality. As the Temple dictates, sex is taught to be nothing but a means for reproduction, and it is expected that both men and women remain virginal until – and faithful throughout – marriage. To be found engaging in extramarital relations or an affair is damaging for the reputations of both genders, but for women especially it is damning – even if she did not consent to the act. She is considered ‘fallen’ and a deviant, often shunned among her peers. Because marriage is now generally impossible for her, such women typically have two options – either they marry the man they lay with or they are given in service to the Temple. By contrast, such ‘wayward’ men are given a great deal of leeway. They are chastised and will be looked upon with a certain level of disdain by others, but the consequences of their actions typically stop there.

Same-sex relationships of any stripe are frowned upon heavily in Ostia. They are not tolerated and are considered as grave an offense against the gods as bearing a child out of wedlock. In order to conduct a same-sex affair (or any affair) the participants must take great care to avoid being discovered.

Marriage

In line with Ostian views on sex, relationships are meant to procreate and to jointly worship the Four. Love and romance is not necessarily unheard of within a marriage, but public displays of affection are still considered unseemly. Consummation ceremonies are expected, in which elder women (usually the mothers of the bride and groom) from each of the uniting families test the bride’s virginity on her wedding night. If the bride is found without her virginity intact, the husband reserves his right to annul the marriage. If she is pure, the elder women then witness the first carnal act between the new husband and wife in order to ensure that consummation is complete.

Of all the nations, Ostia has a middling average age for marriage. Those ages being 17-20 for males and 16-18 for females. Those of higher social status will marry earlier, on average, than those of lower social status. Arranged marriages are not at all common in Ostia unless an Ostian is being married to a foreign nation.

pregnancy & childbirth

In the Marks, there is only one acceptable way to have children – within a marriage. For a woman to conceive a child outside of wedlock is to condemn herself socially and religiously. Considered an irredeemable offense against the gods, conceiving a bastard in Ostia has been the reason for many a young woman’s descent into shame and sisterhood. Before any other course of action is taken, a hasty marriage between the mother and father (if it can be) is arranged without the father's knowledge of the pregnancy in hopes that the child can be chalked up to a fortunate consummation. Such scenarios are ideal, but rare. Abortifacients are not considered a viable option by most Ostians because of traditionalist-bend to Templar teachings that the North enjoys, and therefore many who find themselves with child out of wedlock will be sent away to live out the duration of their pregnancy away from the public eye.

Upon the birth of the child, the mother is sent home and the child is dealt with by either sending it to a distant relative to be kept in secret or, should the more unsavory route be taken, the child is culled. The mother will never have contact with her bastard child from birth forward, and the father will never be made aware of its existence. In the scenario where the pregnancy becomes knowledge or the father is told, the father will always take possession of the child (and the mother, should they both be unwed). The mother will never raise the child.

Divorce & Annulment

Annulment is seen as the singular acceptable, pious, and legal means of separating a marriage in Ostia, and it is a very serious matter. It is a privilege only the husband may invoke; women are never allowed to request an annulment. Furthermore, the only reason the Temple will ever grant an annulment is if the husband can prove his wife’s infidelity. Dissatisfaction, barrenness, and even crime are not considered sanctioned reasons to dissolve the marriage; in most circumstances, married couples are stuck.

In the event that the Temple agrees to grant annulment, the marriage is stricken from all records and the man is free to marry another, theoretically more virtuous woman. By nature of the annulment, however, the woman is morally and socially disgraced and any children born of the dissolved marriage may be considered bastards unless the father requests they remain legitimized. The woman is sent away, either back to her family in shame or to be cloistered in service to the Temple.

Love & Romance

Because of the heavily clinical and pragmatic views on marriage promoted by the Temple, Ostians do not often participate or uphold the ideas of love or romance as being anything other than destructive to a person and to a family. This does not mean that people do not fall in love, but it does mean that there is often great guilt felt when doing so for acting or feeling in ways that are considered to be both taboo and harmful. A marriage is meant to function as nothing more and nothing less than a business partnership or a mutual political endeavor.

When married, it is never appropriate for a couple to show feelings outside of partnership with one another, and to show affection, even friendly affection, is considered uncouth. Acts such as sharing a marital bed outside of sex, public displays of affection, professions of love, are all unacceptable. Affairs and any of the behavior above with anyone aside from a spouse are grounds for social banishment. Instead, lovers conduct their affairs in secrecy and often at arm's length in order to shield themselves from trouble, should it arise.