The Culture

Big Kingdom and its surroundings do not fall under the authority of the Exalted. In fact, its inhabitants have barely heard of them, and know them only as strange and monstrous people somewhere in the distant West.

Instead, those who dwell in Big Kingdom and the Two Duchies worship a diverse pantheon of gods and heroes, mostly through storytelling and long epics to the memory of god-blooded champions of yore. The gods themselves are seen as fairly distant and mostly a matter for the upper classes, willing only to intervene at the behest of professional priests. The heroes, on the other hand, are well loved and remembered in numerous stories. Inhabitants of the Duchies are far more likely to draw their life lessons from these tales than from the teachings of some murky-eyed priest.

Pantheon
The blue-robed priests count dozens of gods among their masters, most of which aren’t known to the general populace. The few whose names are known to the peasantry include Luna and the Unconquered Sun, as well the Black Huntsman and the Smiling Wife. The Black Huntsman is a faceless rider, who lives in the marshes to the south. He’s a vicious bogeyman, that must be appeased with sacrifices, lest he rides out of his lair to spread plague and death. The Smiling Wife is a fertility deity, whose festival is celebrated at every planting and harvest. Her husband is a stern, regal deity whom peasants are forbidden to worship.

Heroes
The Queen of Big Kingdom is descended from a lineage of gods. She is therefore respected and admired as a great hero, even by the peasants. It is well known that all ill things that befall Big Kingdom are on account of her courtiers and viziers, not the heroic Queen herself.

Besides the Queen, some well-known heroes include:

Rybakov, the man with the strength of ten tigers, who built a massive palace with his bare hands only to reduce it to rubble in a fit of rage and sorrow when his best friend and lover betrayed him.
Morana, the huntress, who knew neither pain nor fear during her lifetime, and who walked to the top of the tallest mountain to fight her divine father, and wrestled him to a standstill.
Danica, Morana’s daughter, who could run faster than the wind, and fetched treasures from all corners of the world to win the heart of her beloved, only to discover he had fallen for another while she was away.
Svarog, the blacksmith, whose magic hammer could turn iron into steel and copper into bronze, and who tamed a black wolf and made a spear that killed a man whenever it was hurled.

Priests
The priests of the region are clad in blue and black. They are always male, and jealously guard the secret names of the gods, which nobody but them may know. Locals fear them, for they can bring down the wrath of the gods, but they are not very well liked. More akin to sorcerers serving the Dukes and the Queen, they are often villains in the local folk tales.

The Culture

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