Alpheus: Kingdom of the Stone People Edit
Alpheus is an isolated and forbidding landscape, ringed by shear, jagged mountain chains, crisscrossed by deep, windswept, meandering valleys and passes. This kingdom lies in the northernmost reaches of the Alamasteran Empire. It is inhabited by an ancient and proud people known as the Stone People. These people are known for their markedly pale complexion, dark, soul-searching eyes, and raven-black manes of hair. They are also famous for being tremendously hairy. Alphean men, especially warriors, are known for their wildly styled beard and locks - filled with braids, twists, and curles, interwoven with beads, bells, and ribbons. This is a fiercely tribal and bellicose society. A passionate dueling culture has emerged to channel the restless, youthful energy of the knightly class and the placate the prickly sense of honor that each bravo wears on his or her sleeve. The Stone People are uniquely egalitarian in combat, with both men and women being initiated as braves within their clans, warriors within their pan-ethnic warrior societies, and knights within the feudal structure which overlays the clan system at the behest of the High King. Shepherding, wool-dying, dairying, and cheese-making are the primary economic activities of the Stone people with limited agriculture in the mountain vales. This Crown is ruled by the Stone King, Ray Ru from his mountaintop fortress of Il Eisna, named for the capital city of the Alamastran Empire which finally subdued the proud Stone Peoples. Ray Ru is a king of semilegendary status, even within his lifetime. He has ruled the Crown of Alpheus for 40 years and preserved its autonomy from the Alamastrans, limiting the tribute paid, rendering timely, faithful, and effective service when levied for war, and defending his realms from the depridations of the Northmen as other surrounding Crowns have been continually scourged. He has a large royal house of many sons and daughters, currently being in his 6th marriage, having outlived 2 wives, lost one in childbirth, killed one in a dual, and divorced one. His mighty brood of scions pervading all aspects of public life and the political culture of Alpheus. The shear force of his personality keeps them in check, but there is no heir apparent. Therefore, many expect a vicious civil war upon his death. The most likely candidate with the largest power base of support is Raven Ru, his third eldest son by his second wife, having served two terms as grand vizir of the Stone Court. Many scholars believe the Stone People are an earlier people than the Alamastrans, who settled the land of Galiaster during the course of the last millennium. These Stone People, being mainly pastoralist, were excluded by the Alamastrans, who were mainly agriculturalist in a bloody rendition of the arable lowlands. The Stone People worship the same solar and lunar dieties (Solaren and Luna) as the Alamastrans and speak a dilalect of Alamastran. This is likely due to half a century of assimiliation into the Alamastran Empire. Their ways are still considered archaic by the lowlanders, especially the clan structure they adamantly maintain despite the feudal organization of their political order, most social and economic pursuits are still organized around the clan and the sept as the basic organizing unit. This is unique within Alamaster. A Knight is both a warrior in a warrior society, a brave in the clan, and a knight for his or her liege lord (which is also their chieftain).
The Alpheans, though small in number, make up the backbone of the infantry of any imperial feudal levy. Alpheaus is also unique in that, property is not a requirement of knighthood, rather, all supplies required for knighthood are supplied by the warrior society or clan to which the knight belongs. Most Alphean knights also fight on foot, riding palfreys for quick transport. This arrangement makes supporting, equipping, training, and fielding these knights much cheaper. Therefore, Alpheus is able to field more knights per capita than any of the Almastran Crowns. Alpheans make up the backbone of the infrantry of any imperial feudal levy.
Alphean Knights are also known for their restlessness, errantry, and wanderlust. They are famous as mercenaries, forming the cores of many Free Companies, especially those that plagued the Ramalyan Cape for so much of its history. They are also famous in jousting tourneys across Galiaster, Auryas, and the Jadess Coast.