Next in our clean-up-my-image-folders culture series: the homeland of Our Brick-Headed Hero, Cobrin, even though he hasn’t lived there in a (comparatively) long time.
It will probably be noticeable soon — if it isn’t already — that I like to pull design elements from a wide variety of real cultures. If people are interested, I can point out which pics are from which places, but since I’m trying to mash them all together to make some weird gestalted whole, that might be a bit counterproductive.
Thus far, the only action we have seen in Kerrindryr has been through flashbacks. It is basically a mountain range plus its assorted plateaus, foothills and fertile valleys — the Thundercloak Mountains directly north of Jernizan. And, like Jernizan, I don’t have a proper map for it yet, so here: let’s have the climate and weather maps.
The Thundercloak Range is that light-blue lump of mountains in the northwest, under the dark blue Cool-and-Wet front and above Jernizan’s green and orange. It also separates blizzard country from hurricane and tornado country; essentially it is a huge climate buffer between the north and the midlands. Its mountains (and the hot wind-corridor from the south) are what allow Jernizan to have a temperate climate year-round, while the east is deluged with snow.
These are high mountains, but old ones; though they are still being upthrust, they are crumbling just as much. Limestone peaks have been cut away by time, leaving harder rock behind; many of the higher-altitude dwellers live in the pocks and caves this weathering has created, or carve their own homes from the beaten stone.
But not everyone lives up in the mountains.
In Kerrindryr, attire isn’t really divided along male/female lines — but it is divided between regions. There is what is called the Low Country, which consists of farmland on the foothills and in the mountain valleys, and the High Country, which is situated at or above the treeline or in the more rugged mountain interiors where travel is gruelingly difficult, winter is long and ferocious, and there is little connection between villages.
Low Country Kerrindrixi have much more contact with the world — for good or ill. They were raided almost constantly by the Jernizen before the Risen Phoenix Empire stepped in to claim Kerrindryr as its own, but even then, the Empire exploits the mountains for the same reason: stone, iron, silver, copper.
All Kerrindrixi tend toward rather sober garments — no bright colors, not much elaboration in style, only in pattern. (Ignore the really fancy hair in the upper picture.) Even the Low Country city-dwellers consider bright colors an ostentation for flatlanders, and it is said that all Kerrindrixi are secretly prepared to disappear into the wilderness and blend with the taiga and trees at a moment’s notice.
High Country Kerrindrixi are mostly seen like this:
Just imagine that all of those fur ones are made of goat-hide.
Underneath, they do wear wrap-garments similar to the Low Country, but with less textile-based ornamentation and thicker weave. Also, most any High Country Kerrindrixi out of the home will be wearing a harness with ice axe, pitons, et cetera; while it is not always icy, there is always a chance that the mountain will decide it no longer likes you.
Bridging the gap between Low and High is hairstyles; Kerrindrixi uniformly prefer long hair. And I mean long.
The little puff of a ponytail the guy in the upper right is wearing is basically the minimum length for respectable Kerrindrixi hair, male or female. Someone wearing it that short has likely just been chastised — has failed in a task, bungled a deal, lost a duel. Actual criminals will have their heads shaved. A Kerrindrixi’s hair length is the mark of his or her honor and status in the community, and the most influential villagers often mandate that no one else have a braid longer than theirs. Warriors often shave the sides of their heads like the man in the upper left to make it more difficult for their enemies to scalp them — a practice common to both Jernizen and Kerrindrixi to show contempt toward the enemy.
Warriors also leave their braids out as a sort of taunt to the enemy (which may invite a haircut like that of the man on the upper right). Noncombatants, however, will coil their braids like the woman in the middle right, to keep them out of the way. It is the mark of a warrior’s pride to not have his or her braid be a hindrance in combat, no matter how long it is, but even they will bind it up when in rough terrain so as to not end up hanging from a tree-branch or crevasse-edge by their scalp.
The haircut aspect leads me to mention something that I think has been left unexamined in the books so far: Cob’s short hair. If I was rewriting book 1 (and not misremembering what is and isn’t in there), I’d put a mention of it — specifically how it’s cut as short as it would be for someone whose head had been shaved for a crime. No one did that to him; he cut off his braid himself. And no one prods him for it; the only people aware of its significance are not in a situation where they can antagonize him. Since he’ll eventually have to confront his past directly, it will come up — just like a lot of the characters’ cultural issues come up when they’re forced to pass through/near their ancestral homes — but I wish I’d woven that in earlier.
Anyway. Some of the stylistic details of the Kerrindrixi aren’t native to them, but come from their interactions with the Muriae — the House of Silver. I will address them more specifically later, but suffice to say that they are metal elementals who like taking forms similar to humans; they control all metal usage within the Thundercloak Range, which is their home; and they grant access to it mostly to those who respect or outright worship them. Thus silver jewelry becomes a mark of the favor of the Muriae — and later, a reason for harassment by the Empire, which wished to root out the ‘high country cults’ of the Silver Ones.
Now, because the Empire has won the Low Country and decimated the High, silver jewelry is worn widely in the Low Country as a sort of badge of freedom from the ‘oppression’ of the Silver Ones — no longer is their permission needed for such things. This flaunting and pillaging has become widespread enough that many High Country Kerrindrixi no longer wear their honorary silver, but wear bone or wooden jewelry in defiance of the current trend, as if to show that they respect the Muriae too much to wear what is now considered blood metal.
(After all, the Muriae are made of silver — living silver, which becomes dead and workable silver when separated from them. The Imperials know this, and have killed and chopped up Muriae specifically to use them as coinage. Muriae gifts, in the past, were on the order of giving away a lock of one’s hair, but they can not sustain damage on the level of limb-loss without losing coherence.)
Next, I should probably detail a place we’ve already seen in the text…. Sigh.
This article is great! I love the mood boards you’ve collected for each race/nationality. I’m a big fan of using images while worldbuilding to help people instantly see what you’re describing (though obviously not in a novel as that’s purely writing).
What I’m an even bigger fan of are maps and those are two beautiful maps you have there. For one I think the land form is quite beautiful and secondly the biomes and prevailing winds direction is great.
What’s the scale of your map just out of curiosity? Is this the whole land mass or is it just an island?
All the best,
The Worldbuilding School
This is a continent, about the size of Australia. I have a sketchy set of whole-world maps here and a comparison with the U.S. here, though I think my proportions might still be a bit off from what I want.