Loremageddon: The North Ton Peacestock, ca 1290 V.R.

After a brief lull yesterday to recharge, we’re back with some lore for a markedly less violent group of people. Peace is, after all, in their name–how bad could any of them be?

***

“A peaceful man in a dangerous place soon becomes dangerous himself, or dead.” -The Philosopher Lei Tze

The difference between Lei Tze’s philosophy and bitter reality in the Ton-Ga is that in a land where everything is dangerous, some will never become dangerous enough to compete. Such is life for the North Ton peacestock, who exemplify the gaps in power, stature and class between the stocks better than any other culture on Canno. The Ton-Ga’s warstock children are statuesque, lethal and storied; its peacestock are so thoroughly downtrodden that the rest of the planet forgets they exist. This isn’t precisely hyperbole–a popular Murit historical account claims that there are no peacestock in the Ton-Ga, and that suggesting there might be is a death sentence!

Obviously this is ridiculous–at least, for anyone who lives in the Ton-Ga. Someone has to build the houses, till the fields in what little farmland there is, fight the endless swarms of parasites which infest the growing pools every House has as its main form of agriculture, and otherwise keep the North Ton fed and sheltered against the Bogs. The warstock are far too invested in taking new lands (and stopping other Houses’ warstock from doing the same) to carry out any of these tasks. Obviously, there has to be a peacestock.

Acknowledging that it’s necessary hasn’t endeared its people to their counterparts, however. In most houses, a peacestock man overtops peacestock women by a significant margin–all the tall women were selected for the warstock in the years just after the Loar War. It’s difficult for North Ton warstock to decide which is the graver sin: reminding the War-Matrons that their ancestors were smaller in stature than men, or that these men are nearly as tall as those of the warstock. Either way, the result is that peacestock in the Ton-Ga are treated as second-class citizens.

From the day he’s born, a peacestock man is shown his place at every turn. It’s true that he’s spared the constant barrage of indoctrination, thought-exercises and proverbs his warstock cousins endure, and that he has an excellent chance of being employed within his village rather than in the bogs outside of it. However, he’s also “spared” the combat training, valuable arms and armor, and steady diet which every House strives to supply for its warstock children. A warstock man born poor in the Ton-Ga always has the option of leaving the bogs and setting out across Canno to seek his fortune elsewhere; a peacestock man is likely to die in the same village he was raised in. If it’s not the soggy, tree-encased group of stilt-huts eked out around a rocky outcropping for the town hall, it’s a crumbling cave-system which floods twenty times during every monsoon season. Even here, the best places will be given to the warstock so they have somewhere safe to recover in the event of wounds and disease.

The further towards the center of a given House’s power one ventures, the worse the situation becomes for the peacestock. A single warstock family in a village full of the peacestock will naturally let their warrior discipline slip a little bit just for the sake of human contact. They’ll discard most of the sillier strictures about dealing with these daintier humans. In the more remote villages of any given House, it’s possible there might even be inter-stock romances that don’t end in a killing. Put two warstock families together, however, and most of this ceases to be. With more of their own to speak to, the warstock simultaneously have less reason to acknowledge that the peacestock exist, and a sudden social pressure to maintain their facades.

Go to the capital of any great Tonnish House, and you can see this carried out to its full, brutal conclusion. While it’s theoretically illegal to kill peacestock, it’s not uncommon for Tonnish warstock to ignore this rule. Since law enforcement and executions are naturally in warstock hands, prosecution depends entirely on the warstock to do the right thing. It’s not as if there’s any way to force them into good behavior; they have weapons, armor, and the vast majority of a given House’s mages among their ranks. The peacestock have the ability to farm and mend clothing. No sane person would argue against having food to eat and solid dry attire in the bogs, but Tonnish society isn’t organized around utility. Like humans throughout Cannoan history, and doubly so since the Loar war, it’s organized according to power.

The reader has probably noticed by now that North Ton peacestock are almost always talked about in terms of their relationship to the warstock. Sadly, this is no coincidence. The Tonnish perceive the peacestock as a sort of inevitable accident–all those cast aside on the path to breeding the ultimate warriors had to go somewhere. What place they have in the Ton-Ga has been painstakingly carved out of the bogs with only token help from their supposed kin.

Some peacestock are lucky enough to find their way into music or the arts, where they may become skilled enough as craftspeople to surpass the stigma against them. Musicians are especially revered in the Ton-Ga, and a skilled singer or player can gain social status out of all proportion with her start in life. The prestigious few peacestock deemed worthy as metalworkers, polishers and jewelers of working on weapons and armor can achieve a plush existence indeed! For the rest, however, life follows the same rough format.

Peacestock children receive class-conditioning from an early age when they first learn to walk. Their parents immediately begin instructing them to take small, light steps and avoid standing too straight or making direct eye contact with the warstock–this could be taken as a challenge. They should move their arms only slightly–actually, not at all would be best! They’re to keep their facial expressions open and submissive, avoiding any sign of anger or defiance like their lives depend on it. After all, they do! Peacestock children may have free hours for play each day, but this depends on the professions they’re being prepared for and where they live. Most of their games are the same between Houses, and involve things that will keep them well out of the way the warstock’s way. Hide-and-seek is a favorite, as are hidden-object games.

Any game which might start giving them delusions of grandeur is strictly forbidden, which means no playing with wooden swords. North Ton peacestock children hear early and often that their lives are expendable, and maybe even a nuisance. It’s no surprise that this conditioning takes hold as they approach puberty and enter puberty. At this age, many of the children begin partaking in outrageously dangerous games; the warstock have never showed an interest in stopping them. In fact, Matriarch Lunsha Yao famously remarked, “The best stupidity is the kind that culls itself.” In several Houses, particularly House Lin and House Huan, these antics are carefully encouraged–often by reverse psychology–because the warstock believe they allow the peacestock to feel that they’re rebelling without actually achieving anything.

For their part, the peacestock barely need the encouragement. Like all humans, they bridle at being told others are stronger or braver than they are, and quite readily hurl themselves into ridiculous contests to prove their courage. Some even believe that if they’re brave enough, they may be allowed to join the warstock themselves. Among a few of the genius games the Ton-Ga’s peacestock have invented over the centuries:
“Passing the barb,” in which peacestock teenagers stand underneath the highly toxic rumon tree and wait for it to drop its infamous barbs in response to their presence. When it does, they use broad leaves to swat the barbs either away or at each other. While they do mitigate the perils by wearing thick clothes which often catch the barbs before they break skin, a few peacestock children from any given village will be pierced in any given generation. Some of them survive the ensuing necrosis and the opportunistic infections it usually brings; many do not. House Lin has an especially brazen version of this game in which the leaves are discarded and the teenagers stand more closely beneath the tree watching barbs drop. The winner is the one who waits longest before running.
“Sifting silverbloods”: peacestock children apply a special, slightly flexible lacquer to their clothing. It was developed by the ancient Ton to prevent silverblood larvae from swimming through gaps in their clothing, but eventually breaks down and falls away or leaves gaps. The children use clay (or if they can find them, glass) jars to collect water as it pools around their legs. The contest: to see who can acquire the most silverblood larvae. They boil the water with a few easily-found juices from bog plants on returning home, which stain and kill the larvae so they can be counted. After this there’s a final test: actually eating the wretched things! If the contestants have done their work well, this is perfectly safe. If not, they’ll often be killed by one or more of the lungworms maturing inside them after digestion.

Otherwise, finding stones and bits of precious metal or various artifacts throughout the bogs are a common but equally hazardous source of entertainment. The warstock can’t be bothered to seek these trinkets for themselves, but may pay handsomely for the right finds. Of course, a find that’s a little too right can provide all the excuse needed for a sudden murder. No one at the House capital is likely to notice if a few peacestock go missing in this or that village of the deep bogs. Warstock deaths, on the other hand, will generally be met with reprisals against all the likely suspects. Mei-la Sairo went far further when one of her favorite paramours was murdered, slaughtering the male inhabitants not only of the village where it happened, but half the hunters for the surrounding area.

These outbursts of violence don’t precisely endear either stock to the other, and there have been attempted peacestock rebellions in the past. Like those elsewhere on Canno, these have almost always been lopsided massacres. The peacestock have some hunters who are in themselves dependent on warstock escorts to lance various predators attacking them suddenly from the gnarled plant life which forever surrounds them in the bogs; the warstock have all those who can actually fight. House Huan put such a rebellion down so decisively that its armies unwittingly depopulated a large section of their own territory. The Matriarch at the time, Tanchin Huan, calmly ordered half the inhabitants of the remaining villages to move into the butchered lands. Their first duties: cleaning up the corpses of the would-be revolutionaries.

Most peacestock grow up with the absolute certainty that their lives are either bargaining chips or trifling amusements for their warstock overlords. Depression and all its psychological attendants are common–so much so that some warstock lords have taken to training their vassals not just for warfare, but to identify which of the peacestock around them are most likely to commit suicide at any given time. Yet, irrationally, the Ton-Ga’s peacestock still grow up feeling considerable loyalty to their Houses. This usually seems to spring from a desperate need to believe that things are better than they actually are. The local warstock may be nightmarish, but the Matriarch is mother to all the House–surely that includes the peacestock too!

There have never been any peacestock Matriarchs, nor are there ever likely to be. Male peacestock live quietly subservient lives doing the things less-violent humans have always done. Female peacestock, meanwhile, can do these things or opt for a peculiar shift in status. The Tonnish Houses in general, and House Lin in particular, have unusually chipper attitudes towards prostitution. Referred to by the more dignified title “Silken Whisperers,” they’re seen as a kind of craftspeople in their own right.

Men from either stock can become prostitutes if they wish; warstock women, however, are staunchly forbidden by their mothers from doing any such thing. It’s seen as a distraction from the sacred progression of a warstock woman’s life–after all, prostitutes generally go out of their way to avoid pregnancy, whereas warstock women must pass this rite of passage before they’re allowed to join their spear-sisters in the line of battle. Man or woman, peacestock prostitutes are free to leave at any time–but why would they when it means a steady diet, comfortable rooms of their own, and protected status under Tonnish law? A significant portion of Tonnish marital philosophy even holds that if a Matriarch has too little time for all her husbands, it’s appropriate she give them leave to relieve their stresses elsewhere. This is another reason warstock women are discouraged from brothel-work–a peacestock woman is a pleasant distraction. A warstock woman is a seductress waiting in the wings.

So it is that the only female prostitutes in the Ton-Ga are peacestock. Combined with the Ton’s own insularity, this has created some peculiar ideas about Tonnish women in the outside world. As preposterous as it may seem, a night in a brothel may be the most a Ceslonian diplomat actually experiences of the Ton-Ga. After strong drink and a… pleasant evening, it’s not uncommon that the diplomat becomes convinced that there was a warstock woman involved and that he (or she) has discovered a softer side to the fearsome War Matrons. This has led to all manner of trashy plays, novels and bardic tales in Ceslon. It probably doesn’t help that female Tonnish prostitutes are allowed to discretely play roles if that’s what they’re being paid to do.

Just so long as they don’t start confusing performance with reality, that is.

As with every other group of peacestock on Canno, the North Ton’s peacestock are smaller, less muscular, less healthy, and have softer features than the warstock. They have relatively few mages; mage talent was among the very first things selected for in creating the original warstock, and it’s just about the only thing which guarantees a peacestock person the chance to join the warstock. Otherwise, they’re given to a broader range of illnesses, psychological disorders, and birth defects than their counterparts.

They might have more vibrant personalities or live happier lives in a different world. But fundamentally, the peacestock in the Ton-Ga are one of the least dangerous groups of humans living in some of the most lethal environments on the planet. There’s only so much to be done before, as with everything else in the bogs, death finds them at last.

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