THE AKROPA


Forty suns had passed since they had set out on their patrol, and now they were deep beyond all explored lands. Only six of them remained: two sisters had already died, two more were wounded and a dire journey awaited them before they could reach safe lands again. But with them they carried a thing that could not be lost: a Hollow relic, a piece of the unholy heart of the Wildlands.

Before a raging campfire stood their Wildelder, the leader of their band of sisters. Her eyes shone cold as ice as she spoke to her sisters. "Words are useless now, you know what is at stake. Even if we must all die for the sake of returning this horrid thing, we will not fail. Draw your blades and honor Marzcasca."

Each of them pulled out their knives, put it to their abdomen and whispered the sacred oath. "Our blood for our Goddess, our lives for our duty" Knives cut into flesh, each sacrificing a small part of themselves to the True Goddess. Flesh changed hands and flesh was eaten, shared like all their sufferings and sacrifices. The Wildelder breathed deep, and let our a thundering roar that sent beasts and creatures running for cover. One by one, the sisters joined in.

And the world trembled as their screams echoed through the night.

A brief history of the culture

The Akropa, like their neighbors, first came to their lands following a great migration, when several tribes fled their homeland due to a great disaster. Old stories, now irrelevant and not worth considering, say that the Akropa were once part of the same tribe as the Gabbardani, but that some horror befell them as they traveled into the southern wildlands. A great many people were lost to some terrible affliction which turned people into warped, misshapen things. It is then told that one of the divine beings that wandered the land intervened, and took some of those afflicted and saved them from a terrible fate. Though many who escaped the affliction fled north to what is now Gabbardan, others were left in the south, where they were turned into something else

The Akropa have many stories of what happened from there on, however. Their Goddess saved them from the affliction by turning them into a new people, tall and strong, fierce and brave. At least, the women were. All male children were still warped and misshapen, unsavable even by the Goddess (or perhaps, she declined to save them?) and to this day they carry traces of that horrible disease. Then, the Goddess gave her new people a duty, a holy charge that must never be abandoned. They were to be protectors and hunters, warriors that were to venture into the wildlands from whence the affliction came, to find the heart of it all, and end it once and for all. With that, she cut a great rift in the lands, a border that must never be passed by any abomination.

Her words were heard and followed, and has with the pass of centuries become a unbreakable oath for the Akropa. They have pushed deeper into the wildlands, slowly but surely, and grown their numbers. But the wildlands are massive, and full of strange abominations who seem to have been birthed by the same affliction that once threatened to end the Akropa themselves. Their duty is a difficult one, but one they carry out with pride, even though they are facing increasing pressure from the north, who in their politics fail to see the importance of the task at hand.

In recent times, there has been several conflicts with the Rakkhari, whose crusade again the Gods are at odds with the Akropan worship of their Goddess. But a combination of Akropan force, and pressure from the different provinces who understand the importance of keeping a secure front against the wildlands has so far kept things from escalating into armed conflict.

Mentality

To the many outsiders, the Akropa are violent savages, bloodthirsty cannibals and uncivilized brutes. And though that stereotypes build on some truth, it doesn't tell the whole story.

The Akropa are tough and savage for sure, but their ways are born out of necessity rather than wanton brutality. Their holy charge to cleanse the southern wildlands is what matters more than anything else, and is worth any sacrifice. They celebrate strength and courage, and abhor weaknesses. This does not mean that they punish weakness or well-intended failure, but that they push each other to work through those weaknesses and turn them into strengths. Loyalty and dependability are the highest virtues, and vital to the survival of their people.

Society

The Akropa are divided into nine different bloods, each with their own take on traditions, structure and the best way to carry out their godess-given charge. These bloods rule themselves, but everyone heeds the word of the Aganraza - the Keeper of peace. Though tensions may arise between the bloods, everyone knows or eventually has to accept that internal strife only weakens them all. Most bloodss allow the young to venture out and build a life in other bloods, though some are more liberal with this than others, and some do not allow it at all.

Common for every blood is that one Bloodmatron rules or guides the blood, in some bloods with the aid of a council, in others alone. Beyond that, the structure varies a lot, but certain groupings are constant.

The eternal sisterhood : All grown women are part of the same sisterhood - those sworn to the goddess to cleanse the wildlands from abominations and root out the source of it once and for all. Each and everyone is part of a band of sisters, who venture out on patrols that last several weeks. These bands are welded together over a lifetime, through hardship and sorrow, through triumph and bloodshed. Only one thing may give a sister leave from the patrols: procreation. It is the sacred duty of each and everyone to bring at least one child into the world. Should you choose to, you can carry as many children as you want, but between each child you must patrol for one year, to remain vigilant and ready to fight.

The fleshmenders - Body sorceresses : The sacred ones who heal flesh, shape bone and make procreation possible. They also act as leaders of rituals, guiding the bloods through the traditions. In some bloods, the fleshmenders are strictly forbidden from venturing out on patrols, as they are too valuable to be risked. Some bloods, however, allow young fleshmenders to join patrols, as it their healing abilities are an invaluable addition to any battle team.

The downcast - The men : Cursed with more than their share of genetic deficiencies and diseases, the men are mostly treated as less valuable. Their sickly, often crippled bodies cannot fight, and thus are nearly useless in the wildlands. How these men are treated varies greatly between bloods: some bloods have them doing duties of agriculture and growing, while others keep them doing mental work, such as keeping records of patrols. In some bloods they are treated fairly according to their character, whereas some are more unforgiving. One blood in particular does not even accept their existence in their ranks.

The Crimson Crones - The old and proven : Though some that grow old choose to keep patrolling the southern wildlands until the day they perish, others choose (or are chosen) to become mentors to the young, passing on their skills and knowledge. Though this rarely gives them power in the blood hierarchy, few would brush off their advice and teachings.

The young : As soon you are old enough to accept a responsibility, you are expected to accept it. Training begins at a very young age, both in regards to combat as well as survival skills. Different bloods use different rituals to signify the passing from child to a warrior ready to join the Eternal sisterhood, but it usually involves venturing out into the wildlands, where they are tested in both survival and battle.

Faith and beliefs

There is only one faith among the Akropa, and it is absolute - a fact that cannot be denied, only followed. It is the following of the True Goddess, she who saved them from painful death and gave them a honorable purpose. There is of course, speculation and a difference of opinion on exactly how powerful the goddess is among all other divine things, but it of secondary importance, and talking of such things is a sure sign that you have nothing useful to do.

The True Goddess, or Marzcasca as she is named in sacred rituals, is worshipped both in personal and communal ways. It is up to each and everyone to decide how they honor her when on their own, be it through sacrifices, small rituals or symbols. But when they worship together, there is always bloodletting and flesh-eating involved. Whenever she is called upon, all must partake either of the same body, or a piece of flesh from their own body.

The cannibalistic part of their society has two reasons: one is a pragmatic reason, as the eating of flesh allows the Akropa to sense traces of corruption or taint. The other reason is a more symbolic one, as it is seen as a way of bonding to each other, and there is no more tangible way than nourishing each other. This is why sisters on patrol eat a fallen sister's heart and flesh as a way of honoring her, and why they offer a part of their own body to the True Goddess. Their bodies was a gift from her, so it must be honored and never wasted.

Looks

The average Akropa woman stands at least one head taller than their neighbors, in some cases even more than that. They have by nature a very bulky, muscular build, and green-yellowing skin which makes it easy to blend into vegetation. Their hair is usually somewhere between brown and blond, also with a slight green-yellowish tint. As if that is not enough to make them stand out, their teeth are pointed like a predator's and their ears have an pointed, elongated earlobe and an odd double-split tip at the top. Some say that their ears start to ache or buzz whenever abominations approach.

Almost all the men are deformed in one or several ways, and far shorter than the women. By and large their overall looks is the same as the women, but their genetic abnormality also gives them a very gaunt and harrowed look, sometimes lacking pigments, having skin ailments, etc.

All the bloods use facial tattoos to signify their allegiance, which is marked in black across the eyes, forehead and cheeks.

Name culture examples

Female: Kroya, Acza, Ryzci, Lirnyz, Yzva
Male: Bek, Got, Alk, Kab, Bil

In addition to the first name, Akropan culture also gives most people a name for when they are referred to in histories and tales. These are given based on physical characteristics, great deeds or distinguishing character traits. For example: Eryzca greyhair, Rachez firewielder, Tarah cold of blood. As with all other things name traditions vary somewhat between the bloods.

Clothing and fashion

Some would say that there is no such thing as clothing among the Akropa, and in some sense they may be right. Total pragmatism rules, so any clothes that aren't meant for use in battle are very simple and rough. Leathers, skins, pelts and simple cloths are the most commonly used materials, as they require the least finesse. Over the years, however, there has been an increasing influx of goods (such as simple but sturdy clothes) given from their northern neighbors as a token of appreciation for their sacrifices. The lands which they inhabit are very warm and humid, meaning that not much clothing is necessary anyway.

Most clothing is rather plain and without patterns, due to practical reasons. The patterns that are most often used are line based, either using stripes, or simple geometric patterns painted on cloth. Writing is also used to some extent, as traditions hold that the painted words (such as "strength", "loyalty", "endurance" etc) strengthen the wearer's spirit.

Among the Akropa, hairstyles are kept short and practical for battle reasons. Even those that do not patrol do not style the hair in complicated ways, as such things are seen as vanity and a waste of time. Coloring the hair is more common however, even if it is by simple means. Certain customs and rituals involve decorating the hair with ritual objects made from natural materials.

Jewelry and accessories among the Akropa is restricted to the aforementioned ritual objects. Decoration of the body is done through tattoos and body modification through sorcery (horns, ridges, patterns etc). There is one exception, however, in the case of bondsymbols. Bondsymbols are objects or pieces of clothing that are given from one lover to another, or from one battle sister to the others, to mark the special bond that is shared. These often take the form of bracelets that are both decorative and protective, so they can be worn in combat. Clothes that are worn outside of combat can however be quite decorated, especially if they are reserved for use during rituals or festivities.

The situation for men in general is a bit different in some cases, as their hair and clothes do not require to be as ready for battle. This, however varies a lot between the different bloods: some allow for nicer clothing, whereas some have their men wearing nothing but rags.

Extra material

More can be found in the library