Lands: The lands of the Fir’bolg are named Morread by the folk of the Bog Kingdom. North of Morread is the harsh winterscape of Jotunbrud. Traveling south leads to the enchanted forest of the Silver Elves. The Bog Kingdom is flanked by two seas, Kaos to the west and Ordas to the east, continually wreathing it with cold mist and moisture. On occasion, winters in the Bog Kingdom can be as cruel as the winters in Jotunbrud.
It is often said that Morread is almost all bog and fen, but in truth the Bog Kingdom holds a myriad of different terrain. Although the marsh that dominates the lands of the Fir’bolg, there are rolling hills and crags, forests with shrunken pines and towering oaks, and swathes of arable meadowland. The last form of terrain is hard to find in great quantity and when found are usually where villages or clanholds are built.
The mists of Morread hide a plethora of wonders and horrors. The Menhirs, ancient standing stones, and Henges, ancient stone circles, that dot the breadth of Morread point to an antediluvian history whose secrets the land jealously holds to herself. The main temple of the Mark of Cruelty, servitors of Cruach the Cruel, is based in one such henge and at its center is a gigantic obsidian head, so ancient that its features have been worn away by the centuries.
Some Fir’bolg Druids claim that the veils between Aetherworld and Midworld is thinner amidst the mists; spirits and shadows often slip through to prey upon beast and Man and Elf. Many beasts both natural, like panthers, boars, elks and alligators, and unnatural, such as Shadow-Eaters, Drowning Ladies and Murder Sprites, lurk amid bog and fog to prey upon the unwary.
Thus was it so that until the ascendance of Baelor Witch-Eye, the life of a Fir’bolg village was a precarious one: it could wiped clean from the face of Morread in a single night by horrible monstrosities or a band of Chainers. But where the banner of the Witch-Eye flies, only the foolish and the bold dare assault those under its protection. Oftentimes, these banners are flanked by the shrunken, impaled heads of offenders, be they from Midworld or Aetherworld. With the villages and clanholds safer, the Fir’bolg can truly begin to move forward and take their place as one of the greatest Kingdoms of Midworld.
Law: The Fir’bolg live in scattered communities across Morread so traditions and taboo vary from village to village and clanhold to clanhold. When a dispute arises between persons or families, they go to a council of village elders, a clan Elder-Patriarch or a Priest of Morganna, with the Priest usually being the highest authority. Laws are enforced by a village militia or by clan enforcers. In recent occasion, Dyed Men have been known to bear a ring given by King Baelor that grants them leave to speak with his voice – local authorities have been known to grumble against the intrusion of a Dyed Man in their affairs but rare (and unfortunate for all involved) is the circumstance where such a Dyed Man is gainsayed. Most of Baelor’s warriors have no qualms with bloodshed when it comes to supporting their liege’s authority.
Law of Weregild: Stemming from the Bog Kingdom’s brief time of unity under Connacht, the law of Weregild (sometimes called Blood-price) can be found in almost every village and clanhold even though it has greatly deviated from its original implementation. The family of a slain man or woman may invoke the law of Weregild upon the slayer and bring their case to the elders- after all, a dead man or woman cannot provide for his family. The law of Weregild has been extended to cover acts of theft/property damage and severe harm (which includes maiming and rape).
When the judges are convinced of the accused’s guilt, the guilty party is forced to pay (usually in livestock) or live in servitude to the family for a few years. In some cases, the loss is so great that ritualized maiming is made part of the punishment, certain rituals can be cast upon willing targets that make it very difficult for a wound to heal. Once the guilty party is punished adequately, the crime is considered forgiven and forgotten.
Failure or refusal to provide adequate compensation results in a ritual brand burned upon the guilty party’s face and/or hands and banishment from their home on pain of death. In this circumstance, the guilty party usually quits the scene and he is judged in abstentia. The wronged party is at liberty to hire “grudge bearers” or personally hunt and punish the guilty for their crimes.
The Law of Weregild marks a point of ascendance for the Fir’bolg mainly because it allows two disputing parties a means of resolution without resorting to violent feuding that consumes entire generations worth of families in bloody vengeance. The law of Weregild also allows powerful and influential people to be judged and punished for their crimes, even when the wronged party is otherwise unable to retaliate – for this reason, some Cruacha frown upon the use of Weregild, believing that the strong are made by their god to rule over the weak. Sometimes, a Gralla may dismiss the law of Weregild – either because she is unconvinced of the accused’s guilt or because she believes the matter too trivial to merit the wisdom of the gods.
Law of Iron: There are a fair number of Fir’bolg that do not use the law of Weregild, preferring to settle their “debts” with blade and blood. The law of Iron, sometimes called the trial of Mud and Blood, is a very common form of social resolution among the Fir’bolg, especially those with great confidence in their skills or those with the influence/currency great enough to acquire a worthy champion. It is very similar to a duel except that the law of Iron is sacred and is meant to utterly resolve a serious dispute or avenge a wrong. Duels can be done for any reason, but the law of Iron carries the finality of Divine Dictum.
The forms for the law of Iron are strict, followed stringently by the Cruacha and made known by the stories of mythic legend: the wronged party is accompanied by a Priest of Cruach and approaches the guilty party, demanding satisfaction. The two parties agree upon a place and a time as well as whether the duel is for blood (first blood), mud (first to get knocked down/out) or death.
Unlike most other judicial functions, duels are presided mainly by Cruacha or Setanta (Priests of Maerra). Rarely, Priests of other Marks, Elder-Patriarchs and Dyed Men are asked to adjudicate the matter. Each duelist brings witnesses each must bring the same number usually 2-10; their principal tasks are: to spread news of the trial’s resolution, to keep an eye on the other witnesses and to save their combatant from dying (or defilement if it is a duel to the death).
Before the trial of Mud and Blood truly begins, each combatant is ritually blessed by the Priest and therefore by the Cruel God, who gives the dooms that they wield (in the form of their weapons). The Cruacha allows each combatant to declare or deny their crime or the source of their dispute. After the declaration of their intent/innocence, the two combatants engage until the conditions of the law are met. Afterward, the Cruacha ritually declares the matter resolved in favor of the winner, clearly Cruach has given him or her victory: the crime is avenged or erased, the dispute is settled in the winner’s advantage, etc, and the witnesses are tasked to spread the word truthfully upon pain of death. Cheating in this most holy rites is the gravest of blasphemies. Such a sin earns a soul Cruach’s fiercest ire which follows him and all who shares his blood: such a sin can only be cleansed by the Gate of Cruelty, als
o called the Cruachan Noose: a ritual where the entrails of the living criminal are drawn from a cut shaped like a gate from his torso and he is slowly strangled with them while cleansing spells prevent his consciousness from shutting out the horror.
It is said that the Gate of Cruelty is done after weeks of sanctified torture with spells to heal the body and cleanse the mind of pain-blocking madness. A slightly less horrific form of the Gate of Cruelty is used when creating Chosen out of heathens or especially vile sinners – it is whispered among bards that Baelor Witch-Eye survived the Cruachan Noose as one of the twelve trials he had to endure. Certainly, he has the scars on his stomach to match the tales.
Family: The Fir’bolg are a clannish people, usually keeping amongst their own kin and kind. Their familial units include nuclear and extended family living within nearby clusters of huts built atop the most arable land they can find for the sake of communion and protection.
The clannish behavior of led to the development of the Clans: large and influential families descended from mighty heroes and their retainers. The Clans control and defend the lands around their homes, usually called a clanhold. The land around a clanhold is usually safer than other portions of Morread.
Family Leadership: In most Fir’bolg families and clans, the leader of the household is the elder-patriarch, usually the oldest father in the family or a prominent male in a clan. His decisions are law but he usually accepts counsel from his wife and other family elders, both male and female. The immediate family of an elder-patriarch are given a small degree of leeway and some favor than other families, but only because of the elder-patriarch’s ability to directly pass judgment – these social differences are not as jarring as social command available to the main branch of a noble family over the vassal branches.
When an elder-patriarch dies, the leadership of the clan goes to his heir, a respectable Man of wisdom and ability. This choice can be influenced by bloodline but oftentimes, an elder-patriarch is strongly encouraged to select a person of merit over a person of kinship. The stories of the Fir’bolg are rife with elder-patriarchs that have chosen kinship over strength and brought the doom of Cruach upon their house. The changing of hands goes awry if a heir is not selected, not respectable or not available – in this case, the elders choose an heir. If none of the elders are unable to select an heir, the path is ripe for any male to ascend to a leadership role.
In the case of a heinous crime, the head of a household may choose to banish a family member from his home. In this case, family members are no longer expected to treat the banished as kin – except that they are forbidden from killing them for the gods do not look kindly upon kinslayers. Even if the banished violates the terms of their exile, slaying them is a last resort and still an act of blasphemy. It is said that Aine Bittercloak, leader of the Gralla, and Eriu the Ageless, leader of the Cruacha, have been given the power to unbind the blood from a family member and thereby cleanse the sin of blasphemy.
Marriage: Tradition encourages the males of a clan to seek wives from outside the clan, even though some kinfolk may be several degrees apart in bloodline. Such behavior bolsters a clan with new blood and establishes good relations between the two households. A man who wishes to marry another man’s daughter usually gives a bride-price. Take note, despite it’s name, the usage of bride-price is not buying a commodity, it is for compensating his wife’s father for the loss of her labors, similar to a Weregild.
Traditionally, the wife of a man is considered to be part of the his clan. For almost all purposes and intents, she has left her old family and is now part of her husband’s family. Her father may consider her his daughter and grant her his favor, but the Gralla ritual that binds a man to his wife (and vice-versa) has blood-bound the woman to her new clan. To separate a woman from her husband is a blasphemy against Morganna and thus invites doom for the blasphemer and all he holds dear. The consequences of such a crime is the core of “the Betrayal of Maelcon”: the titular character of the exemplum (or cautionary tale) attempts to break the bond between his daughter and the first King of the Fir’bolg and loses everything at its end. Now, his name is the Fir’bolg by-word for a possessive father and an oath-breaker and the name of his clan is no longer known.
It is not unknown for a man to leave his own clan or family and join his wife’s. If the man’s clan is more famous or influential than the woman’s then the act brings shame to his family. As long as the man’s old household is equally or less reputable than his new one, the marriage will be viewed only as an oddity rather than a disgrace.
Fir’bolg Elves: The Elves that now dwell in Morread were once wanderers and vagabonds. Those that have found allies with the Humans of Morread and a home amidst the mud and mist have rooted so deep within the society of the Bog Kingdom that only a few folk remember a time when only Humans were called Fir’bolg. Centuries of mutual aid and respect have successfully integrated Elves into the Bog Kingdom, although sages of history believe that certain traditions, beliefs and even gods are subtle Elven influences in the culture and society of the marshes original residents.
Wildlings and Shaedlings who have lived in Morread’s mists have accepted the clannish traditions of the Fir’bolg. However, their own Elven views have endured through the years. Some Elven clans allow the head of the household to choose the clan heirs from males or females. Elder-Matriarchs perform just as well as their male counterparts. They often leave the leadership role to their husbands or lovers when they are incapacitated by the final weeks of pregnancy.
Some Wild Elf clans and families keep to their ancient ways, maintaining a nomadic lifestyle instead of establishing clanholds and villages. The dangerous landscape of Morread makes such living incredibly dangerous and so most Wildling households have stopped traveling or stick to a secure, circuitous travel pattern.
Fir’bolg Women: Traditionally, the place of woman among the Fir’bolg is as an obedient daughter, a devoted wife and/or a nurturing mother. However, the Bog Kingdom is far from a society where woman are powerless and subservient. The daughters of Morread have been tempered by their mother’s cruelty to be strong, resilient and confident despite their apparent servility of their role.
Unlike other Kingdoms, Fir’bolg women are encouraged to take up the arts of war, be it in spear or in spell. The goddesses of war, Marda and Maerra, are the exemplars of this mindset. Certainly, women in the Bog Kingdom are traditionally expected to be skilled in the arts and tasks of maintaining and managing a household. But when monsters or raiders swarm a village, every resident, man or woman, needs to bring arrow and spear to bear against the enemy – being a woman will not spare one from slavery or savagery.
While it may seem that women are usually passed over leadership roles, the wife of a elder-patriarch oftentimes has a firmer grasp on the status and workings of their household than her husband, thus making her counsel utterly indispensable. Clever women have been ruling their households through their husbands for centuries, it is no less true even in a place as “simple” as the Bog Kingdom.
, there are a plethora of orders and societies where a woman may assume the role and the face of leadership such as among the Priests of the Goddesses Morrigan, who will only choose females are her High Priests. Many covens and warbands care little as to someone’s sex and allowing for females with the will and the skill to ascend to the upper echelons. Some Elf clans have even maintained a neutral stance on their leaders.
There are those that say that Fir’bolg women are less than Fir’bolg men; most women of the Bog Kingdom let such comments pass because they mark a dull mind and an easy victory – only a fool would underestimate a daughter of a land as cruel and deceptive as Morread.