The Ferdiad Cycle
" What a curious people. They are proud to the extreme and never fail to grasp a moment to boast of their achievements, be it in the battlefield or the confines of their bedrooms. They are tall in stature and hold a fierce proudness in their gaze. There is something old in these people. Something one can’t point a finger at but feels before their very presence. What a curious lot… and always deep in their cups, it seems. "
- Elandrias of Andaria
The Cerns (also called Kerns in older scriptures) are an East-Drystanean group of people, identified by their use of the Cernish language which is believed to have diversified out of Ogham long before the rise of the Ellysian Empire.
While the term ‘Cern’ has many ties to several cultural groups such as some of the northern tribes, the Bridei and the Hrods, today it is used exclusively to refer to the people of Aenoria.
Main article: Tome of Invasions
As the Cerns didn’t possess any written history before being conquered by the Ellysian empire, much of the origins of the Cerns have been lost in time. As Ellysians have little interest in other “inferior” cultures, few Ellysian scholars took notice of the folk tales of the Cerns.
The only major writing of the early Cernish history is the Tome of Invasions, which is a collection of of epic poetry compiled by Elandrias of Andaria from Cernish oral folklore and mythology. It describes the founding of the Cernish clans by four successive migrations by different tribes, of which the Cerns were the third. While pinpointing exact historical dates from these tales is next to impossible, many scholars believe the Cerns settled the present day Aenoria over 1500 years ago.
For centuries the Cerns were a disparate collection of tribes populating most of the present areas of Aenoria and steppes of Ysgrid. While they shared mutually intelligible dialects and many of the same gods, no central power tied them into larger nations.
The invading Ellysian Empire was a catalyst for change, as the squabbling tribes formed an alliance to thwart the incoming invaders. Despite the heavy resistance, the valiant but unorganized Cerns we’re no match for a trained professional army and Aenoria was under Ellysian occupation by the year 377 of the Imperial Calendar.
The Ellysian occupation changed many aspects of the Cernish society. Over the centuries the gods of the Old Faith melded together with their Ellysian counterparts, giving birth to the most popular religion today, Corwynt. In addition the power of the old priesthood, the druids, was crushed after decades of guerrilla warfare. Today few remembers them or pays homage to the old gods.
Those who refused to bow to the emperor were driven far into the north across the plains of Ysgrid, becoming what today are called the Hillpeople, Bridei and the Vindiil. The southern tribes who accepted their new sovereign were risen to the rank of trusted vassals who governed the northern provinces. The first high king of the Cerns, Cophass magh Cinfhaelad, was in truth first of many puppet kings hand-picked by the Ellysians. Although humiliating, this new rulership brought stability and led to the formation of the present day provinces and clans.
The Ellysian reign was ended abruptly when the Empire was driven into a full-scale war with a kingdom named Visiroth from the far west. The war was ended after a decade of heavy fighting in the Battle for Larks Gate which triggered a magical cataclysm later known as Skyfall which totally annihilated the main armies of both sides and caused massive changes in the geography of Eastern Drystan. The mountains of Mynydd-Brynn rose from the ground in an instant and Ellysia’s northern capital of Everon sunk as the sea rushed to create the inner sea of Bedd Duw. Even the northern parts of Aenoria were transformed to a ragged wasteland of strange rock formations and seemingly random cluster of hills and mountains.
The Cerns took advantage of their rulers’ weakened state and in one massive uprising ousted the remaining Ellysians out of the land. After it’s subjects rose to armed rebellion one after another Ellysia lost it’s foothold of the lands and was driven back into it’s heartlands where it still lies as a broken and dying country, a former empire dreaming of a golden past.
The now independent Cernish clans decided to establish their own kingdom on the foundations the Ellysians has laid. The first true high king would be Drustan magh Aenor, figurehead of the uprising and the hero of the siege of Caern Môrn. The only leader not to accept him was the prophet and chieftain of the Hrods, Vangetorix. The argument reached it’s peak at the second Conclave by the sacred standing stone of Gwynnaghl. Blood was spilled as Vangetorix’s men tried to make a grab at the crown. The resulting civil war was short but brutal and resulted in Vangetorix and the Hrods fleeing to the south where they later established their own country, Hrodland. The remaining Cerns were left to build the largest and most powerful nation in the eastern Drystan over the next three centuries, naming the land as Aenoria after the first true Cernish high king.
Clans and septs
Cernish clans (from old Cernish clann, “progeny”) give a sense of identity and shared descent to people in Aenoria and to their relations throughout the world, with a formal structure of thanes recognised by the court of the Lord Magister which acts as an authority concerning matters of heraldry and coat of arms.
Originally only the noble families could form clans but after a steep rise in population growth and numerous peasant uprisings king Néill magh Moen gave permission for influential families of freemen to establish clans. Although the political power still lies within the noble clans, the common clans have improved the conditions of the working class notably during the last two centuries.
Often clans are thought of as based on blood kinship alone and that every person who bears a clan’s name is a lineal descendant of the chiefs. Many clansmen although not related to the chief take the chief’s surname as their own to show solidarity, or for basic protection, or for much needed sustenance. Their ruling structure, whether ruled by a single lord or a council, change according to needs and the qualities of their membership. As any organisation, the power of clans grows and shrinks. Once-powerful clans could in time decline in stature and be amalgamated into once-smaller ones. How this “merger” is dealt with is a matter of negotiation based on the respective power of each party.
Septs are families that followed another family’s chief. These smaller septs would then comprise, and be part of, the chief’s larger clan. A sept might follow another chief if two families were linked through marriage; or, if a family lived on the land of a powerful lord, they would follow him whether they were related or not. Bonds of manrent are sometimes used to bind lesser chiefs and his followers to more powerful chiefs.
The Cerns are divided into three classes, all which are hereditary: the ruling nobles, freemen and the lowly serfs.
The nobles are descendants of the strongest and richest tribes of the pre-Ellysia times. They swear allegiance to their sovereign and promise to fight for him in exchange for an allocation of land (with serfs living thereon). Other duties are defending their lands from outside dangers and handling taxes. The lesser noble clans answer directly to the ruling Thane of the province, who in turn is accountable to the high king.
A commoner (but not a serf) can be bestowed the rank of a noble for actions of extreme valour, although only the king can grant his and does this very, very rarely. Members of other noble clans can be adopted to the family but children born from marriages with commoners can never be nobles, although they are considered regular members of the clan and have a right to inheritance if they are the only surviving offspring.
Even if they are legally possible such marriages are looked down upon and are thought to lower the clan’s social standing.
A freeman is a person who is not a serf and therefore not tied to the land which they don’t own nor in bondage to a member of the nobility who owns that land. He is free to roam the land as he pleases and can own his own farm or establishment. Clans of wealthy freemen can gain considerable amounts of wealth and power, although such cases are relatively few and far between.
Serfs form the lowest social class of the Cernish society. They are bound to the land they are born to and are more or less property of their ruling nobles. Serfs who occupy a plot of land are required to work for the lord of the manor who owns that land, and in return are entitled to protection, justice and the right to exploit certain fields within the manor to maintain their own subsistence. Serfs are often required not only to work on the lord’s fields, but also his mines, forests and roads. The manor forms the basic unit of Cernish society and the lord of the manor and his serfs are bound legally, economically, and socially. Lately serfs have been granted the possibility to join a commoner clan as a sept. While this has improved the conditions of the peasants, it has caused plenty of political struggle amongst the ruling elite.
Members of the clergy are treated as a separate caste. While the life of a lowly monk or chaplain of a hamlet is a life of toil and burden, high ranking members of the temple are often wealthy and command moderate political power. A freshman’s future position is largely decided by their social background. Orphans rarely rise to a high position outside the inner circles of the monasteries while children of noble families usually end up as the highest ranking lectors.
Northerners and Southerners
There has been a cultural divide among the Cerns since the days under the Ellysian rule. As the southern parts of Aenoria were the base of operations of the Ellysians, it’s population was heavily influenced by the foreign culture. Since the high king’s court has been located in the southern capital of Caernfaddon since the first puppet king, the southmost provinces hold the greatest political power in the land, a fact that has irked the more traditional Northerners to no end and at times almost into an open rebellion.
The Northerners are said to be as rugged as the land they live in. In addition to the barbaric Hillpeople and Greenskins pouring from the north, the deep forests are homes to myriad dangerous beasts, highwaymen and worse. As a result every man and woman are expected (and in some provinces, required by law) to be able to defend themselves and their lands.
Ellyrian influence is seen less the further upnorth one goes. Some traditionalists (some could say radicals) even dress up in the old wargear worn by the tribes of the old which are normally used only during parades and celebrations. Here the old gods are still remembered by communities stranded from the rest of the society and some even whisper of cabals of druids and cultists hiding in the impenetrable hearts of the woods.
While the northern Cerns may be sometimes regarded as uneducated backwater ruffians by the Southerners they are in fact a proud and resilient folk with a strong sense on identity and a deep love for their homeland.
Although the Southerners rely on their northern cousins for protection against the barbarians of Ysgrid, the real power in Aenoria lies within the southlands. Compared to the Northerners they are a cosmopolitan people, their lifeblood being steady trade with the neighbouring nations. Merchants from all over the eastern Drystan carry their wares to trade in the flourishing capital of Caernfaddon and it’s lands of rolling planes reaching as far the eye can see.
The Northerners can (and will) call them spineless fops disregarding their heritage but the Southerners are far from helpless, as they produce some of the most powerful heavy cavalry in the known world.
Religion and mindset
While the Cerns are not obsessed with religion the Virtues of the Corwynt govern the actions of most Aenorians. The thought of positive and negative actions affecting not only a person’s but his past, present and future lineage’s place in the afterlife has made them very careful of keeping close record of event both big and small. Consequently they are very interested in history as every person owes his lot in life to the actions of his forefathers. Ancestral worship happens in some of the more isolated parts of the northern provinces but this is generally frowned upon and even illegal under the more piteous rulers.