The name in Cascir for the people of Balkland and their language.
A stereotypical Balcheri is much like a stereotypical Viking from Earth's history: Tall, well-muscled, fair-skinned, lots of body hair on the males, hearty, strong-bodied females. They are by nature a boisterous folk with little to no propensity for deceit – if a Balcheri likes you, it's going to be obvious he likes you. If he doesn't, you'd better to find a way to put some distance between you. He's less likely to stab you in the back than he is to punch you in the jaw. They are among the most courageous humans on Menelon due to cultural and religious proclivities, and also among the most superstitious and least subtle.
Balkland is a far northern land with long winters and short growing seasons. It is quite mountainous and volcanic, with most arable land restricted to the larger valleys. For these reasons the Balcheri people are a hardy folk who've taken to the sea for fishing, trade, and betimes an honest bit of privateering. Their ships are light, fast, and heavily armored for their size; the Balcheri sailors are fanatically loyal to their captains (who are usually clan-leaders) and will fight to an honorable death rather than surrender in dishonor.
They are a gregarious, social people, a fact reflected in their language, one of the most agglutinated on the planet. The Balcheri language borrows words from nearly ever spoken language on the planet where the Balcheri people have established trade. Unlike their language, the people as a culture are resistant to change. Historically, it has taken violent upheavals to bring about major progress in Balkland (more on this to come).
Their religious lives typically are split between worship of B'nach, the ancient god of their people, and of Urilia in her guise as "the sea goddess" (worshiped by mariners more as a force of nature than as a personified deity). It's worth noting that while the sea goddess has at least a shrine in every coastal town and village in the country, the "city Urilians" are despised throughout Balkland for decadence and greed, and are restricted to an enclave in the capital, Bergenhavn.
Balcheri males are typically considered adults at fourteen, females at menarche. Though Balcheri youth of all ranks are free to court whom they choose (within rank structures, of course), premarital sexual relations are rare. There are several reasons for this:
- Balcheri clan honor requires each member of the clan (Balcheri clans) to act in accordance with the highest standards of accepted cultural behavior.
- The B'nachian religion attributes premarital sexual relations as destructive to clan stability and thus prohibits it.
- Balcheri courting customs are quite violent. No one wants to risk dismemberment over a casual lark.
The clans can be led by either a male or a female member; there are few gender-based lines drawn in Balcheri society. A clan head is usually the eldest person of the clan sound of mind and body, but this is not always the case.
A “clan” is an (extremely) extended family unit. Any given clan has alliances and enemies among the other clans. The enmities between clans often erupt in violence, thus perpetuating the bad blood. If a clan calls upon an allied clan for support, the clan head of that clan is obligated to send it (though he or she has some latitude in how much of what kind of help to send). Clan alliances are founded upon many reasons, sometimes very unlikely, and cemented through intermarriage or treaty or a mixture of both.
The Balcheri are quite distrustful of mages and magic, though they respect bards and gifted healers. Balcheri who've somehow obtained a southern education or who were not raised as Balcheri are not prone to this distrust, but they are very rare.
Speaking of education, there isn't much if one is not of the nobility or upper merchant-class. It is extremely rare for a Balcheri commoner to speak any other than her native language, though merchant traders pick up Cascr plus a smattering of the languages of the ports regularly visited. Literacy is typically reserved for the nobility, royalty, and/or B'nachian priesthood.
More on the Balcheri to come.