The Riverfolk have no lands to call their own, although there are cities and towns that they have good enough relations with to ensure their amnesty.
The Riverfolk present an appearance of lawlessness and liberality, but in truth, there are precepts and taboos that they will not break.
Blood: The ties of blood are sacrosanct to the Riverfolk. Incest is a grave sin and invites a bloodcurse from the gods upon those who break this taboo. Likewise, those who murder one of their relations also calls down a curse upon himself and his entire bloodline.
The Tragedy of Malas began from such an act, with Malas slaying his father in self-defense and being exiled. In the tale, he unwittingly marries his sister and furthers his damnation in the eyes of Gods and Men. The story culminates with the gouging out of his own eyes (so he can no longer see the abominations that he has wrought) and his long walk to the sea so that Bat-hala can receive him into his mercy. But Bat-hala himself refuses him and he is cursed to an eternity of torment and misery. It is because of this tale that Riverfolk treat the blind and the crippled with reverence and pity (as opposed to disdain and disgust), because despite his sins, Malas was a man of great skill and wisdom among his folk.
Favor: While the Riverfolk respect the concept of ownership as far as it can be enforced, the favor is a concept more sacred and more powerful to the Riverfolk. Whether it is a material gift or a service – favors bind the fates of two souls together. The Riverfolk are honorbound to respect the service or gift that is given freely to them and return the favor when they can.
Individual Tagalog define the limits of their favors and the lengths that they will cross to repay them but three things are a constant regarding this strange practice: (1) the service/gift must be a significant one to both parties, (2) it must be accepted freely without duress and (3) the repayment was be equal or greater in value to the initial gift or service. Many relationships, be they friendly, romantic or business, have been formed as a result of a continual exchange of these favors.
Favors promote an often overlooked aspect of Riverfolk society: forgiveness. Favor may allow someone to be forgiven of their past transgressions.
Loyalty: Those that look upon the Riverfolk mistake them for a lawless race of rogues and miscreants, but even Rogues have organization and even rogues have honor. The concepts of loyalty is one familiar to other societies: it is a natural evolution of the laws of Blood and Favor. A Tagalog may vocally declare loyalty to a patron which behooves him to follow orders, to grant support and to sacrifice in his stead. This declaration is ritualized in the following verse:
By sky and sea,
By sun and shadow,
I swear to you,
my Blade and Word
and Spell are Yours
to use as You see Fit
The concept of Loyalty is in important one, especially to the great Caravans of the Riverfolk. Those who wish to partake in a Caravan’s secrets and power are required to swear their allegiance to that Caravan as well as perform several tests of faith that determine if their heart is as true as their words. Even those born to a Caravan must undertake these trials, although they undergo them only when they reach the age of majority (fourteen summers).
Needless to say, those who are found guilty of breaking their word are considered the lowest of the low among the Riverfolk.
“There are lies and then there are lies – and breaking one’s words of faith is a grave sin reviled by Gods and Men”
Being born Riverfolk means being born to a life of travel and of hardship. It is easy to believe that the Tagolog are a people of ease and of song and of dance – but that is an illusion. Life on the river and on the road is a difficult one, chores and danger are a constant in this lifestyle – there is always something to do and there is always something lurking in the next corner. Tihluurani are honed to a sharp edge when it comes to dealing with danger and so accustomed are they to this grim fact that they develop flamboyant means of recreation and entertainment to offset the gritty truth.
In the Riverfolk follow a patriarchy in their familial affairs – the head of the family is considered to be the father. However, in practice, it often turns out that the mother is the leader in the household and in most matters pertaining to it. Children are expected to obey their parents in all things, although this expectation is reinforced in some ways by the requisite chores of the lifestyle and it completely disappears when the child reaches the age of majority.
A group of families traveling together are called a Caravan Clan and they are often distantly related to one another. The leader of the Caravan is usually the oldest and most capable patriarch and this position can be contested once a decade by aspiring patriarchs. Those with unruly households are usually passed over or considered incapable of the necessary leadership that the Caravan requires to survive. The patriarchs of a Caravan are expected to obey the commands of the Caravan Master, trusting in his leadership to be fair. This situation is often rife with intrigue and jealousies as households vie for this position of lordship.
Some Caravan swear loyalty to one of the greater Clan Caravans or Fleets led by a Datu. These Caravans enjoy prestige among their folk, support from their Datu and the favor of those in good steading of that greater Caravan. If Caravan Riverwind aligns itself with the Crystal Caravan, they can enjoy greater diplomatic relations with all other Caravans as well as the kindness of Datu Puti himself when they are in need.