The Taajars are a distinct culture on the Kentoku Isles. Either living in isolated villages, or wandering as nomadic traders, they are a quiet and neutral group. However, their merchants are rather distrusted, and they are all too often seen as barbarians.
Once in Antiquity, the Taajars were a large, powerful and feared people. Controlling the isles of Oki, and swaths of Odaiba, they were in constant conflict with the ancient Dasaka clans. Many clans to the present maintaining tales of their heroes battling the 'Taajar Pillagers'. The Taajars at this point were tribal, Soko-mounted nomads, under the blanket authority of ever alternating 'Hordes', under rulers called Xhanoks (A term changed to Rhonyu after the defeat)
The conflict grew ever hopeless for the Taajars. First, they were cast from Oki, in a vast campaign led by heroes the Dasaka would later revere. Then ever more rapidly, they were pushed into smaller and smaller lands. Until finally, they were pressed to the lands around Mount Koshiki. After being pushed to defeat by the Empire, the Toroshu, hungry for vengence, prepared for a final attack to destroy all 'Taajar Barbarians'.
But by the grace of the Rora herself, riding from Sado, the Taajars were spared from annihilation. Signing a series of treaties, the Taajars renounced their gods, swore fealty to the Empire, and adopted the language and caste system of the Empire. Gradually, the Taajars sifted from pure nomadic life to establishing settlements, and embracing the Imperial culture. The lead clan, or Astyzyar of the Taajars also mandated that all Taajar clans stay neutral in island affairs, to avoid destruction by the Imperials.
In the time since, the Taajars have gratefully accepted a quiet, simple existance. Taajars maintain cordial relations with other clans, and pay yearly homage to the crown, but otherwise are a nonexistant part of the political landscape. To maintain this, the Taajars have ruthlessly maintained their policy of neutrality. Sometimes destroying clans who violate it.
To start, Taajar Clans are loyal to no Imperial clan. Clans are forbidden to take them as their liege lords. Instead, Taajars recognize one of their own clans as The Astyzyar, or lead clan. This is conducted in a vote by the Taajar Toroshu. However, the vote can only be called by the Rora herself, due to binding treaties signed ages ago. The current Astyzyar is Clan Angavur. The Astyzyar is sworn to the crown by law, the de facto only clan to do so.
Every Taajar is taught and is fluent in the common tongue, but all also speak a creole language called 'Vulgar Taa'. The language, a rough sounding mix of 'Old Taa' and common, is rarely spoken outside of Taajar camps and villages. It is most used in regards to titles the Taajars use for select castes. The title Toroshu, for instance, is called 'Jahagir'.
The clans are based in fenced villages made up of thatched longhouses. Most don't live in said villages, however, being roving Saihoko traders. Those that do are the Menti, Ringti and Dashi. Dashi are, rather strangely, few in number. They are mostly Mukau herders and foragers, who live directly outside the villages. Taajar Ringti work primarily as crystal weapon and armor smiths, glassblowers, crafters, and woodcarvers. Menti, or Zrupgars in Taajar tongue, live with the Clan's Toroshu, or Jahagir. Villages are divided by caste, with the large, central longhouse belonging to the Menti, the Ringti usually in the right side of the village. Those few Saihoko who live in the villages are sanctioned to the left. First Sons are called Hologu Devati, and have similar roles to their Imperial counterparts (Expanded further later). Taajar Generals are often called Hetakers.
Most Saihoko are traders who rove the Isles, with caravans of Mukau in tow. They usually camp outside major cities, set up traditional yurts, and remain for weeks at a time. They are looked down upon, even by other Saihoko. As they are considered usurers, prone to dishonesty, and sellers of half-rate equipment.
The Taajar clans are scattered across the Kentoku isles, and tend to make their villages in undesired, or highly isolated areas. All nowadays abide by the Astyzyar's rule that the Taajars would take a neutral stance in island affairs. This is done to avoid being wiped out by the far-more numerous imperials, or at the least the forced assimilation of them into greater culture. They however believe in a policy of armed neutrality, maintaining their Menti class to remain prepared.
The Taajars are, in theory, governed directly by the Astyzyar, and once they were. Nowadays, however, the clans are so few and so scattered that the Asyzyar has been reduced to only a symbolic force. Each clan is de facto autonomous.
If a clan violates the policy of neutrality, unless it is by the order of the Astyzyar (Who are, in turn, reliant upon the order of the Empress), they are declared Hoaja Mudra, or non-Taajar. Those in Hoaja Mudra clans are summarily banned from trading with Taajar traders, from wearing Taajar armor, or entering Taajar villages. Many Taajars will refuse to even speak with members from excommunicated clans.
Taajar customs are by no means universal. Some clans are more traditional, and exibit mistrust towards the Imperials and their customs. Some instead embrace Imperial customs, mostly to a limited extent. These Clans view themselves above the traditional ones, and shun many of their customs. The latter are far more commonplace, nowadays. One common custom among the Taajar, however, is a strong martial undercurrent. It is common for lower-caste Taajar to carry cane-knives, and often quarterstaffs, for self-defense while traveling in caravans and around clan lands. In addition, most clans have a small stockpile of half-pikes, for village defense in case of war. Drilling with said pikes by the lower-caste Taajar happens every decade.
Taajars are known for their varied cuisine. Features common to it is the focus upon cream and oil bases, hot peppers, and the meat of the Mukau. Like the rest of the isles, rice is the staple grain. Though it is often replaced with foraged wild grains. Food is not often farmed, but is gathered from the area around villages. Thus, a great deal of Taajar foodstuffs are brought in through merchants contracted with clans. Taajar honey-rolls are famed through the land, as is their herbal soups and rice cakes. For drinks, Taajars have milk and butter tea. Kaoliang, or highly potent Sorghum liquor, is the Taajar liquor of choice, though mead is also consumed. The Taajars also make a large variety of preserved, pickled, and salted foods, owing to their nomadic nature.
Most Taajar clans practice the controversial tradition of polygamy. Excepting the most Imperialized clans, it is common for the Hologu Devati of clans to have multiple wives (Up to five). This practice, Ulugu Avada, is a holdover from nomadic times. Under it, almost wives are equal, and have a higher social status than the husband. The exception, of course, is the Jahagir. All children of these marriages are considered full siblings, sans those of the Jahagir. In the distant past, the Astyzyar Jahagir often had two husbands, but such polyandry hasn't occured in millenia. The practice of Ulugu Avada has been used by scholars to explain the steady expansion of the Taajar population in recent centuries.
Funerals in Taajar culture are quiet events. A week of mourning is declared, and the person's immediate family is bound to silence, unless in emergency. Bodies are interred under cairns, most often in secluded, serene areas many miles from villages. Stelea are erected if the deceased are important enough. Burial at sea is accepted if the clan lives along the coast. It is utterly taboo for bodies to be disposed of in fire, as the Taajars believe this harms the person's soul.
Rahi known as Soko are revered among the Taajar. Breeding them is considered a prestigious role for a clan, and most high-ranking Zrupgars are trained to ride them. Some clans also train Soko-Archers. The rank of Sokomaster is reserved for the best Horse-Archer in a clan.
Regular Taajars wear loose robes, waterproof ponchos, and often straw caps. Sarees are reserved for Zrupgars and Amukas, and are coded by color. The Astyzyar-Jahagir is the only Taajar allowed to wear a red saree. Taajar Jahagirs wear orange sarees, Zrupgars wear green, and Amukas white. Hologu Devatis wear striped teal-black togas. Clan identity is shown by patterned sashes, in formal occasions. Most commonly, those of the Zrupgar caste wear armor more often than robes, except in villages and Sado.
Taajars are discourged from exogamy. Those Taajars, male or female, who marry outside the culture are immediately disowned, declared Hoaja Naghan. Those who are Hoaja Naghan are considered members of their spouse's clan, and are wiped from family trees. In any further interactions with his/her birth clan, the Hoaja Naghan individual will be referred as Onlu and not seen as a member, current or previous. Those who are Onlu have no chance to rejoin the clan. Children born of such unions are of the spouse's clan, and considered wholly Imperial. They are not discriminated against by the Taajars, and treated like any other Imperial, save being barred from wearing Taajar armor. In Imperial culture, intermarriage is a rare, taboo event. While those who do are not rejected, it is frowned upon. In Imperial culture, those of Half-Taajar descent sometimes face discrimation, and often downplay their heritage. Illegitimate children, however, are bizarrely considered both Taajars and legitimate heirs to the clan, and are treated like full-blooded Tajaars. This is only if they are born to a Taajar mother, and raised seperate from the father.
One custom, rooted in ancient, banned practices of shamanism, is the existance of Koshi Zrupgar (literally "little warriors.") These referred to dashi picked young because of their desire or mental potential, then trained as Zrupgars were. Koshi zrugar are immediately identifiable by the "mask rings" that hang on either side of their masks. Because they were expected to know how to fight Zrupgar, they generally possess greater mental discipline than their Dasaka counterparts, and traditionally worked as village guards or personal guards of Jahagir. However, koshi zrupgars are currently trained by a less than a handful of clans. This is because they are generally considered to be a secular offshoot of the nyzihir, a class of agender traveling warrior shamans. Today it is considered forbidden to even speak of nyzihir, and koshi zrupgar are barely tolerated by Taajar society.
Taajar Zrupgars are noted for their highly distinct weaponry and armor. Zrupgar Infantry wear a crystal chainmail shirt, and a leather cuirass scaled with crystals. They wear helmets made of leather, studded with bone. The color of the crystal tells what rank a Taajar is. Regular Zrupgars wear armor made of yellow crystal, Jahagirs of dark blue, and the Astyzyar-Jahagir red. The Jahagir of the Astyzyar wears feathers, weaved onto a band on their helmet. Taajar armor, though often personalised and highly decorated, are designed to be practical rather than ceremonial. Weapons can be of any color but red, which is reserved for Clan Angavur. Colored sashes tell Clan affiliation.
Taajars are armed heavily. Each carries a long bladed, crystalline Kris, a Katar, one or two multi-bladed throwing knives a leaf shaped wooden shield, and a stone dagger strapped to the left forearm. Taajars once used huge curved swords in antiquity. These swords are still produced in limited numbers. They now represent the authority of Jahagirs, and special ones are produced for each new Rora, to represent their authority over the Taajars.
Taajar Hologu Devati carry flanged maces instead of Kris swords, and wear armor of green crystal.
Koshi Zrupgar follow similiar armor patterns to their regular counterparts. Though they are banned from using Kris swords. They are mostly armed with either Katars, half-pikes or bills. Curved daggers are also common weapons for them to carry.
Soko-Archers are more lightly armored, in leather, mostly, with tall riding boots and crystalline mail hauberks. They carry recurve bows, with arrows tipped with obsidian and razor-sharp crystal, and crystal Talwars. They are not as numerous as Taajar infantry, as less clans train them. They are, however, highly valued.
Surcoat-like garments, in gaudy bright colors, are optional attire.
How to Join
To make a Taajar clan, send the usual form to Mr. House via PM, and use the wiki page to describe it. Initially, only clans loyal to the Astayzyar will be accepted.
- The Taajar have their canon of historical chronicles, most written after their defeat. Among the most prominent are The Alushustra, a collection of romantic stories of the Great Taajar Hordes, The Fall of Xhanok Rhosgu, a tale of the last Horde, and the Ologu Sonnets, a collection of ancient poetry.