|System of Governance:||autonomous tribes|
|Leader(s)||Paiema Singing Heaven of the Toronoma, Madim Odiroyo of the Guahclac|
|Primary Religion:||Animism, Ubasti|
|Strong Minorities||Mongrel Variations|
|Real World Influence:||Real World Influence:
The vast and impenetrable lands of the Felinae have no united land or rule, instead being peopled by clans and tribes, vast and small, each with their own way. Warlords like Paiema Singing Heaven of the Toronoma or Madim Odiroyo of the Guahclac lead clans within striking distance of other nations, but represent only a tiny fragment of the total people of the wild lands. Covering more territory than any nation or empire in all of Meridia, the lands called Kategonia touch against almost every other nation on the continent.
The land of Kategonia consists of lush tropical rainforests in the north and the soaring mountain peaks of the Kategonian Mountains. To the far south the forests become temperate, and a blend of other landscapes can be found in the massive territory ruled by the wild Felinae who will tolerate no conquest. It has no capital, no treaties, and no international relations. It is peopled most definitely by the Felinae who will hunt, kill, and potentially eat any interlopers. Other races definitively dwell within, however, particularly Mongrels of avian, simian, ursine, reptilian, lagomorph, or rodent extraction. The peoples of Kategonia live in tribes or clans governed by a thousand different systems, believing in a thousand different gods or ways.
In ages past, vast nations have arisen out of Kategonia and pressed out into the world stage, such as the Calakmul invasion of Nikiria in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but nothing of that scale has happened since. Instead, news from the wilds tends to take the form of lost expeditions. In 2009, an expedition of more than 50 Thracians under the leadership of experienced Etruscan explorer Caecilius Turbo disappeared trying to reach the Inko ruins of Cozauhititlan which are thought to be about 100 miles from the Thracian border.
Generally speaking, the people of Kategonia are organized into tribes or clans numbering from the low dozens to many hundreds strong. They seldom form larger coalitions and exhibit fierce independence from one another. Unlike the tribespeople of southeastern Meridia, clans of Kategonia exert definitive control over exact boundaries, which are marked and understood by one another and ruthlessly enforced.
While most sentient peoples within the regions of Kategonia are Felinae, even those who are not or who represent blended communities tend to follow the broader model of the Felinae tribes. A great deal of variation and subtlety exists, but some broad elements are consistent enough for description.
Clans tend to move frequently within their own territory. Some do not use dwellings at all, while others use temporary housing. Still others move between permanent villages, shelters, even caves within their lands. Personal possessions tend to be few and of limited importance. Personal status can often be assessed through casual observation based on ornament and attire, if present. Leadership structures tend to not be inheritable, and it is usually the case that martial prowess is a strong consideration in obtaining leadership.
Magic is regarded spiritually by most peoples of Kategonia, and is a function of and intrinsic to their religious practices rather than simply a utilitarian aspect of life. Religions tend to be either animist/pantheist worshipping nature, ancestors, and nebulous tribal spirits, or to harken to ancient powerful gods of the jungle and mountains such as might have been important to peoples like the lost Inko or other ancient empires. The worship of Ubasti is known to be present to some extent through many of the peoples of Kategonia, being a through-line to much of their religious tradition.
There are three distinct settlements or trading centers to in which outsiders are permitted to live and interact with native peoples, from which much of what is known by outsiders is gleaned from discussions with the inhabitants. On the northern border with Damascus, Daewat Alfireawn is a sprawling tree-town built around and through a grove of forest giants near the marker stones that have determined Damascus's reach for centuries. Daewat Alfireawn is controlled by the Toronoma clan of Felinae. The second settlement where outsiders are permitted is called Ubasti's Precipice and is a converted stone ruin located on the high cliffs about the mouth of the Fluxus Tenebris on the border of Thracia Unitas. It is ruled by the Guahclac Felinae, who provide a very different picture of culture from the Toronoma. The third is called Keeper's Gate, and sits astride the Nzadi river, just upstream from the greatest extent of the wildland Barbarian peoples of that watershed. It is ruled by the Morro clan of Felinae.
The Toronoma live in lowland rainforests near Damascus. They claim a large region of that border and mark their territory by hanging ornaments made of red and yellow parrot feathers, small animal skulls, pungent herbs, and Human hair conspicuously from low-hanging tree branches at intervals around the edges of their land. These border markers are kept fresh and renewed, showcasing the subtle shifts in claimed territory.
The Toronoma wear minimal clothing but abundant jewelry and adornment. Most are of jaguar coloration, and ritual scarring of the forearms is a common indicator of social status. The clan numbers approximately 800 Felinae and is thought to exist in twelve individual bands continuously moving through the shared territory. The number twelve is religiously significant, the number of digits on Ubasti's forepaws, given that she is depicted in their iconography as a polydactyl humanoid black Jaguar, usually with three eyes.
The leader of the Toronoma is Paiema Singing Heaven, a massive black jaguar female Felinae selected by ritualized gladiatorial combat. She is seldom observed by outsiders but is known to wear armor made from tiny plates of bone (said to be scapulae fragments) linked by mithril rings, essential scale armor made of Humans. One estimate suggests that if the origins of her armor are to be believed then it represents the altered remains of between twenty and thirty Humans and was obtained and constructed prior to her ascenscion.
The Tornoma are renowned headhunters. Their settlement at Daewat Alfierawn is a pilgrimage spot most usually visited by Felinae from Damascus seeking to reconnect with their ancestry and by intellectuals trying to understand the Toronoma. Anyone suspected of being a treasure hunter is summarily killed, and carrying equipment suggesting such an inclination is both forbidden and ill-advised in the town.
The town is built on platforms hanging from and around tree trunks an average of 80 feet in the air but as much as 200 feet above the forest floor, concealed in canopy. The structures are made of plank and rope with very little actually attached to the trees. Large "nest" dwellings are suspended from webs of rope and connected by plank walkways, rope bridges, or elaborate swings. The occupants of the village change constantly as one or another of the twelve bands moves through the region.
The Toronoma worship Ubasti as chief goddess ruling over a pantheon of twelve lesser gods of the jungle, each associated with a virtue or attribute they also ascribe to her. They live as hunter-gatherers and have a profound love for dance and storytelling. They are conversationally very aggressive and take pride in intimidating outsiders.
By contrast, the Guahclac Felinae of Ubasti's Precipice are a relatively mild-mannered clan. They permanently reside in and around the expansive stone ruins overlooking the river, and have moved stones from the ruins to create fortified villages and compounds throughout. The primary "town" is one such re-allocated segment of ruins that particularly sits on a cliff overhang and can be accessed by visitors from outside Kategonia by way of a surprisingly sophisticated pully elevator from the beach below.
The Guahclac are welcoming to visitors and pleased to trade for outside goods, exchanging in particular the unique remedies and alchemical substances they obtain from ranging through the deep jungles in and around their ruins. They claim only a small territory but are both wealthy and numerous, with a blend of approximately 300 Felinae calling themselves of that clan.
The Guahclac adhere to a fluid shamanistic tradition of worship and regard Ubasti as a matriarchal figure, an ancestor. They believe the forest is holy and sacred and seek to share its bounty, in carefully measured doses, with outsiders. While generous and welcoming to strangers, they are absolutely rigid on the subject of strangers wayfaring into the jungles themselves. The sacred lands beyond the scope of the ruins are forbidden, and any who trespass are captured, ritually tortured, poisoned, and hung from the cliffs as a warning to others. This is followed by long and extensive funerals in tribute to the courage of the fallen would-be explorers and the community generally regards the entire affair as very sad, but it happens often enough to add fresh corpses to hang alongside the old bones at least a few times a year.
The Guahclac are led by an ancient male albino Felinae named Madim Odiroyo, who is explained to be a living ghost. His leadership is spiritual as well as political, which is a common tradition among their people.
The Morro people of Keeper's Gate stand guard against what they see as dangerous intrusions by outsiders into the heard of their hill country homes. Mostly a population of Felinae with ocelot coloring, the Morro are extremely shy and their barrier community is, at best, a place to receive warning not to travel further and engage in minimal trade. The Morro will trade bushmeat and pelts for imported craft goods, particularly silk, rope, and steel. They accomplish this without speech and refuse to answer spoken language nor to speak their own language in front of outsiders. They clearly express that no one is to go further upstream, and will unfailingly harpoon anyone who tries, leaving them to the caiman, river pike, and piranha of the Nzadi.
Careful and discrete observers who stayed resolutely outside the indicated boundaries have observed that the Morro have a deeply mutualist society showing profound reverence for elders. They share without compunction and exchange things amongst themselves without showing clear indication of barter or any sense of currency. They act, instead, like close siblings with one another at all times. They are competitive with one another, but never aggressive, and follow the wishes of their seniors with no hesitation. They never speak, not even vocalizing growls or similar feline noises, within range of their own borders. Their leadership is entirely unknown.
These three examples of cultural groups in Kategonia represent only a tiny fraction of the broader reality, but provide some insight into the kind of variation that exists.
what faiths are present, what are the views on faith
Clans have multiple different methods of organizing. These structures are not distinct between groups of Mongrel and groups of Felinae, being more environmentally determinative than racially.
- Many clans organize with people born to fill very specific roles in society which determine both their profession and status, then are expected to mate within that status collective and perpetuate it.
- Changes in caste status in such cultures are rare and occur under specialized, religiously determined circumstances or ceremonies.
- The groupings of role tend to be a priest class, a warrior class, a creative/productive class, and a service class.
- Groups with similar structures will often intermarry and exchange young people so long as the systems interlock effectively, but do not readily form lasting treaty bonds or permanent alliances.
- Many clans organize around status obtained through the demonstration of particularly regarded virtues or accomplishments.
- This may be focused in one area of achievement or have multiple paths to the upper status ranks.
- Examples of achievement types that gain status are advanced age, competitive martial prowess, mastery of specific crafts, or completion of athletic challenges.
- Most such societies have a bypass high status for raconteurs or religious figures who are seen as the arbiters of the status obtained by others. Additionally most such societies have an extreme love of verbal history and storytelling.
- Many clans organize according to a blend of rigid ranks appointed and sustained by a fixed leader from whom promotions and rankings descend.
- This model tends to be fundamentally nepotistic and highly structured. The leader will have trusted lieutenants who will have their own trusted advisors who command explicit subgroups of the people.
- Clans of this sort can become very large but are often unstable and subject to being broken apart by infighting during transitions of power.
Free Association Model
- Many clans organize very abstractly. Perhaps the most common form of tribal peoples in Kategonia, this structure is communistic and fluid with only a loose association to history and tradition.
- People work together within the clan but make new decisions about how to handle problems as they arise and seldom resort to authority except in matters of spirituality
- Spritual leadership in such clans tends to be intuitive and shamanistic, and spiritaul wisdom tends to be widely distributed among many persons
- Age is of profound significance in determining social status in such models.
Customs and Holidays
What days matter to the people
Arts and Exceptionalism
Organization of the Land
How the power structure is divided regional (i.e. Duchies, Baronies, Lordships, etc.)
History since the Dragon Wars
Major Modern Events
What events will have shaped the experience of characters having grown up there
The physical lay of the land