Giganti

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The Giganti are a race of large, barbaric clans living in the mountain realm of Sirak Drauth. They are perhaps most known for their immense size (individuals being 7 feet tall not uncommon), their great strength, and their warlike nature - indeed, it has been said that there has never been a time when a Giganti clan war wasn't occuring somewhere.

Their naming scheme is in Norwegian fashion.

In addition their infamously rowdy and warlike nature, however, the Giganti are also known for their strong cultural emphasis on taking pride in one's labors and aversion to laziness. They are particularly famous for their exceptionally skilled stoneworkers, architects, blacksmiths, and jewelcrafters, and the massive subterranean city of Dyphjem ("Deep Home") is considered one of the greatest wonders to be found in Arad, its stonework unsurpassed and its architectual feats baffling foreign experts in the field.

Societal Structure

To the Giganti, dedication to and pride in one's clan is of utmost importance, and clans tend to be exceptionally territorial. Little reason is needed for one clan to attempt to expand the range of their land and influence, and this is usually achieved via seizing other clans' territories by force of arms. Clans are expected to defend their own with utter loyalty and ferocity; something as trivial as an insult to a member of a clan can result in a full-blown clan war.

Clans tend to be made up of groupings of families, and are usually only added to via marriages. In the rare event that two clans get along well enough to not be in constant furious competition with one another, a marriage may be arranged to help ally and unite the two.

Each clan has a hovding, or chieftan, who rules, manages, mediates, and protects his people. How a chieftan comes into his role can vary from clan to clan, but there is always the option for a clan member to challenge the chieftan in battle to take his position. This is never done lightly, as failing to defeat the chieftan will result in the challenger's banishment (if the challenger survives). If a chieftan dies outside a challenge or becomes otherwise unfit to lead, who will succeed the chieftan can be determined in varying ways: In some clans, the role will pass to the next of kin or an individual the chieftan has chosen, while others have a group of elders who will convene and decide who the next chieftan should be or a spiritual advisor whom will divine the identity of the next leader.

While the Fjelkongen, or Mountain King, in Dyphjem is nearly always considered far more powerful than any independent clan on the surface world, it is rare that a King holds any significant sway or influence over the outside clans. This is likely due in large part to the fact that there is so much pride and conflict amongst the clans that they are unlikely to ever be truly united in spirit. Only on two occasions have nearly all the clans of Sirak Drauth been united - the first due to an extremely powerful and charismatic King who attempted to conquer and unite the clans, which lasted only a few short years, and the second when an external force from Aetgard threatened Sirak Drauth and the clans united briefly to fight against the foreign invaders who sought the fabled caches and riches of the mountain realm.

Aside from chieftan, other roles of significant importance and influence within a clan may include:

  • Frodr - Elders: trusted and wise individuals who have proven their loyalty and value to the clan.
  • Spiritual advisors - Spiritual advisors may include Dyrhoytallr who commune with the animal spirits, Andhoytallr who commune with nature, and Geistlig who commune with the Mountain Father.
  • Krigmester - A warchief, second only to the chieftan in matters of war and combat, and handles the majority of training and management of clan warriors.
  • Eir - Talented healers tend to have a powerful influence in clan civil matters. Note that thaumaturgy is virtually unknown in Sirak Drauth - Giganti healers utilize herbal methods, and some call on supernatural forces to assist.
  • Runskjaere - An individual, usually spiritually connected to the Mountain Father, who specializes in carving runes of power. These runes are used for various supernatural means - for instance, runes of strength might be carved on a hammer or other tool to lend strength to the wielder.
  • Steinskjaere - Exceptionally talented stonecarvers are highly respected in virtually every Giganti clan, often seen as blessed by the Mountain Father.

Personality

Giganti are often considered loud, rowdy, and brash, though those priveleged whom dwell in Dyphjem typically make more of an effort to be composed and more "civilized". These are generalizations, of course - individual temperaments can very greatly from person to person. While the Giganti are known to be proud and boastful and to tell exaggerated tales of their prowess and accomplishments, it is said that they will never tell a complete lie while boasting, lest they be cursed by the Mountain Father for claiming glory that they did not earn. Perhaps most infamously, all Giganti are said to harbor a terrible temper and fury within which should never be brought out.

Competition reigns supreme in Giganti culture, individuals constantly striving to prove their superior skill, prowess, and worth. The meek and the humble typically don't last long, save in a few respected positions such as healers and some spiritual advisors, or laborers who don't particularly need to interact much with others. There are also, of course, those mighty or skilled enough that they don't need to be loud and competitive due to their natural superiority.

Appearance and Garb

The Giganti are on average significantly larger than the average man both in height and girth, often standing seven feet tall. Their skin tends to be fair or pale, their eyes green or brown, with hair ranging from red to brown to blond. Full and bushy facial hair is the norm for males, though in some clans (particularly in Dyphjem) careful shaving and grooming is considered a sign of high culture and refinement. Females are typically a bit shorter and stouter than males, and stout women are culturally deemed more attractive than those cursed to be thin and frail. Females tend to have very long hair, often down to their waist or knees unbraided, though the prevailing hair fashion heavily incorporates braiding, particularly amongst warriors.

Apparel varies greatly from clan to clan, though the majority of surface clans tend to wear furs and hides. The reasons for this are many, from simple practicality in the oft-frigid mountain weather, to desiring a spiritual connection or assimilation of the animals from whom the hides come, to the desire to appear fierce or mighty. Undecorated furs and hides are considered common apparel, while furs and hides decorated with some kind of ornamentation or dyes typically indicate that the wearer is of higher status.

Dyphjem fashion is significantly different than that of surface clans, most of the citizens wealthier and considered of higher status than those outside in the sunlit realm. Fine dyed cloth with intricate embroideries and designs is worn by those who can afford it, as well as ornate jewelry set with many gemstones. Due to the abundance of gems found within Dyphjem, the more expensive and status-indicating gems tend to be uncommon exotic imports, such as lapis lazuli.

Individuals of specific positions or professions often wear a garment or accessory to indicate it:

  • Hovding (chieftan): A crown or circlet of metal (often gem-studded if the clan has the wealth or resources).
  • Krigmester (warchief): An armband on the right bicep indicative of his clan. Material can vary depending on the wealth and resources of the clan.
  • Warriors: An armband on the left forearm indicative of his clan. Material can vary depending on the wealth and resources of the clan.
  • Eir (healer): A leather headband, often decorated with feathers or bone.
  • Geistlig (communes with Mountain Father): A stone band on the right ring finger.
  • Dyrhoytallr (communes with Animal Spirits): A leather band on the right middle finger.
  • Andhoytallr (communes with primal forces of Nature): A wooden band on the right index finger.

Religion

The vast majority of Giganti revere the Mountain Father, last of the Mountain Giants who carved the Giganti from stone and gave them life. There are other spiritual beliefs amongst the clans, however - usually supplementing, but rarely replacing, belief in the Mountain Father. They are frequently broken up by scholars into three primary groups based on their spiritual focus:

The Mountain Father

Nearly all Giganti believe in the Mountain Father, he who created the Giganti and watches over them. He is looked to for many things - guidance, wisdom, strength, and protection of the people as a race. The Mountain Father can also bestow blessings to the worthy - particularly those who are especially dedicated and hard-working in their roles, though he tends to particularly favor stonecarvers and architects.

The Geistlig are those who commune with the Mountain Father in some way. They may preach his will, ask him for guidance, and beseech his aid in various ways, varying from clan to clan. Many Geistlig particularly in tune with the Father will take up runecarving - carving runes devised by the Father of such purity of form and purpose that they are believed to have supernatural power.

The Animal Spirits

Animal spirits are frequently revered and respected by the Giganti, though rarely in place of the Mountain Father but rather in addition to him as lesser beings. It is mostly the mightiest and fiercest of animals that are revered, while the weak and the prey are considered unworthy of respect. The Animal Spirits are communed with in varying ways from clan to clan, from beseeching them for lending of personal strength to securing the aid of animals under a Spirit's sphere of influence. Animals Spirits are generally considered wild and untamed, and Giganti must prove themselves before being able to win their respect.

One who communes with Animal Spirits is a Dyrhoytallr.

Nature

The least widespread and accepted of spiritual beliefs amongst the Giganti is that of nature itself - that there is a supernatural force of, and connection to, nature that can be tapped. Most often practiced by healers, this form of druidry is generally considered the most primitive of spiritual beliefs or spheres.

One who communes with primal forces and spirits of nature is an Andhoytallr.

Death

When the first Giganti died and they discovered their own mortality, they were afraid, and called out to the Mountain Father, saying that one of their own had done as his brethren and had lain down, becoming cold, asleep and unwakeable. Then the Father revealed to them his gift of the Ven-Helligdom ("Waiting Sanctuary"), a carven realm deep in the earth, unreachable to all but the spirits of those who had toiled tirelessly and resolutely in life. He suspected that the bodies he had created for his children would eventually wear out and fail, so their spirits would go to the Ven-Helligdom upon the death of the body, and there they would be able to continue to live in spirit until the Father could make for them perfect, unfailing bodies. In a similitude of the Father's brother Giants, fallen Giganti bodies would be buried in great hills or mountains, to give their bodies back to the strength of the earth.

The Ven-Helligdom is usually described as something of a spiritual mirror of life, though without any of the unpleasantness of things such as disease or pain. Crafters can continue to labor in this spiritual world, warriors can fight ceaselessly and never suffer pain or death, and so on.

The souls of those who lived unworthily or in some way greatly offended the Mountain Father will sleep forever with their bodies buried in the ground, lending their spiritual strength (their soul) as well as physical strength (their body) to the earth.

Legends also tell of those who have refused to stop being, to become one with the earth again, who have raged at the Mountain Father's decision for them or who have just been entirely too wicked in their life. Their hate and anger is so great that instead of fall quiet, they take the stone onto themselves and create themselves a new body to be their eternal resting place. Inside this stone parody of a form, they continue to live and walk the world to lash out at all those they come across.

Fueled by pure hate and rage, even the strongest fall in front of them as they hunger for the life they once had and hating all life in turn. They are called Ondjord and are one of the few things Giganti truly fear.

Prominent Clans

While there are a great many clans within Sirak Drauth, these are some of the more well-known:

Jernmeis (Iron Chisel) Clan

The Jernmeis Clan has held the throne of Dyphjem for several generations, and are known for bringing wealth and prosperity to the subterranean city and primary territory of Sirak Drauth. Over the past several generations they have built up strong ties and trust with other territories and foreign countries to solidify trade relations, specializing in exporting precious metals and stones. They hold influence over all the other clans dwelling within Dyphjem, as well as several on the surface world, including Sirak Drauth's primary trade seaport.

While Jernmeis has a large sphere of influence, many other clans claim that the Iron Chisel are ripening to be conquered, having grown soft and complacent over their many years of comfort and prosperity.

Their symbol is a chisel marked with the Giganti "J" rune.

Svartsten (Black Stone) Clan

The Svartsten territory includes the main pass leading out of Sirak Drauth, and its people consider themselves the guardians of the nation. They proudly maintain the gates and tunnels leading into their homeland, ensuring that no one enters Sirak Drauth without the permission of the Mountain King, just as they have since the days when the mountain realm was invaded by Aetgard. Their army is considered one of the most powerful in the nation, and they have carved several fotresses and watch points into the mountains to ensure their homeland's security.

Their symbol is a tower atop a black mountain peak.

Hvitulv (White Wolf) Clan

Notoriously proud and ruthless, the Hvitulv are quick to anger and take extreme pleasure in completely wiping out their enemies. They have a strong tie to a Great Wolf Spirit and emulate it, roving about in "packs" along the large range of land that they've claimed. Despite a relatively small population for a major clan, they are respected for their ferocity, ruthlessness, and effective group tactics in battle.

Their symbol is two white wolf pawprints stained with splotches of red.

Fallansten (Falling Stone) Clan

An influential surface clan known for their exceptional stone- and rune-carvers and believed to be highly favored by the Mountain Father. Though their clan's army is powerful, they are known to be both honorable and merciful in clan wars, absorbing and integrating defeated clans rather than wiping them out or working them to death via servitude. Other clans often whisper that this is a sign of weakness or lack of clan pride and purity, but few are willing to bring the accusation directly to the Fallansten for fear of retribution.

Their symbol is a rune-inscribed stone tablet.

Rullendbolg (Rolling Wave) Clan

The Rullendbolg are settled on the northwestern coast of Sirak Drauth, and boast a significant fleet of warships famous for their black sails. Known to have a love of wealth, the Rullendbolg often find work as mercenaries, both on land and on sea, and they are rumored to have a hidden cache of immeasurable wealth amassed over the generations. Many Rullendbolg warships are employed to maintain the Quarantine along the coast of western Arad, and there are more than a few legendary pirates on the seas who proudly fly the Rullendbolg flag along with their own personal colors.

Their symbol is a black-sailed warship atop a breaking wave.

Skjelfuru (Trembling Pine) Clan

The Skjelfuru revere nature perhaps more than any other clan, their Andhoytallr rumored to have influence not only over plants and animals, but the winds and the rains as well. The healers of the Skjelfuru are second to none, and have gained favors and protection from the Mountain King on more than one occasion as payment for their services, affording them relative safety from more powerful clans despite their small territory and population.

Their symbol is a trio of tall pines interwoven with stylized wind lines.

Ancient History

At the beginning of the world, the Mountain Giants toiled without rest to shape the land. After a thousand years of raising hills and mountains, carving caves and canyons, the Giants looked at their work and found it to be good. They were content, and pleased with their work, and prepared at last to rest, thinking their work complete.

Though most were looking forward to an eternity of idle rest and feeling content in their accomplishments, one of the Giants rebuked his brethren for thinking their work was complete and being willing to cease their efforts. This Giant claimed that the world would be dead and still were it to be without continual adjustment, alteration, and improvement. The other Giants, however, were tired after their thousand-year labor, and content to give up their work. So it was that all but one of the Mountain Giants lay down for their rest, and they themselves became great hills and mountain peaks, forever asleep and unmoving, content with a work well-done.

But the last of the Giants continued on alone, going here and there and shaping the world with continued dedication and fascination. Though he rebuked his brothers for giving up their work and their craft, he came to miss them after a time, toiling countless years alone. So it was that within a deep cavern in the mountains of Sirak Drauth he shaped stone statues in the likenesses of his brethren as they were when awake, and he dedicated the place as a memorial to them, and went there often to rest, so he could be in their company.

The stone statues gave little solace to the Last Giant, for though they bore the likenesses of his brethren, they were statues only, cold and lifeless. As the Giant longed for companionship, he expressed his wishes and desire by carving runes into the statues, runes of the purest and truest form. Such was the purity of his runes and the strength of his will and desire that the statues one day sprang to life, and were living, and beheld their creator in wonder and awe, and called him the Mountain Father.

So the Mountain Father taught his children, and above all urged them to never be content or idle, because he feared that they too might become too tired and too content with a finished work like his brethren, and lie down and become lifeless stone once again. So it was that the Father invoked a bittersweet curse upon any who would become too content and too idle, that they would become degenerate and lose their intelligence and become like dumb beasts, but in becoming such they would need to forever struggle in great effort to survive, and avoid turning to slumbering stone like his brethren. These beasts would be cast out of the caves, and left to survive in the sunlit world above, out on the slopes and crags of the mountains.

After a time, the Father was satisfied with his teaching of his children, and wished them to live their own lives, and make their own decisions, and shape their own works, while he returned to his own beloved work of shaping the earth. With one last exhortation to never be too satisfied or idle, the Father left the Giganti to their own, though he promised to visit them again after a time.

Not long after the Father departed, the Giganti began to argue over who among them would lead in his absence. This quickly turned many of the Father's children against each other, and there were several accusations of going against the Father's will. In the end they were split into ten different clans, all supporting their own chosen leader. Ultimately, the clan led by the one they named Mektigste was far stronger in number than any of the rest, and he assumed leadership. Angry and bitter, the other nine clans left the caves of Dyphjem and entered the sunlit realm of the surface world outside the caves, and went all in different directions to establish their own rules and territories, some upon the surface, others in new and foreign cave systems far from the Deep Home, all plotting to gather their strength and one day claim the throne for themselves. Thus the rivalry of the clans began, and has continued to this day.

Of the original ten clans, there was one which was made up of the small, the weak, and the outcast; all those whom no other clan would accept. This clan held such little respect that the other clans refused to acknowledge them even to conquer them. So these outcasts were forced to live in a flat land near the sea, far away from the mighty mountain peaks and the Father's influence. Left to their own devices, these outcasts eventually learned to make seacraft and, in their shame, departed their homeland and traveled across the sea to a foreign land to become their own people, the Faewyr. (It should be noted that the Faewyr themselves do not accept this as the origin of their people.)

Another theory about the origin of the Giganti dates back to the Tyrant-King Gudleifr of Aetgard. It tells of how Gudleifr escaped from Sifa the Golden after she charmed him and led him away from his Keep, or that Sifa never returned to ensorcell the Tyrant-King at all. However due to the situation in Aetgard and the furthering collapse of his Kingdom, Gudleifr fled north into Sirak Drauth and was one of the original ancestors of the Giganti.

Needless to say, it isn't a popular concept among the Giganti.