Hi everybody! Gus here, aka Augusta Li, author of the fantasy series, The Blessed Epoch, among other things. Thanks to Charlie for letting me stop by today. I thought I’d share a little bit of scholarly lore I uncovered recently, which gives some insight into one of the cultures prominent in my series. I hope you will find it interesting and enlightening. Please bear in mind that the conclusions and opinions of the good Senior Mage are not necessarily mine.
An Essay on the Culture and Habits of the Emiri People, being a Part of the Larger Work, The World and Its People
~By Marconnius Talarion Zafiro, Senior Mage, The University of Pala Reapaza, Espero
In all my many years of travel, of chronicling the many diverse cultures of our world, never have I encountered a race of people whose customs are so bizarre, so very opposite of our own, as those of the Emiri people. To give a bit of background to those few of you unfamiliar with the history of this foreign culture, it is believed the Emiri reached our shores several centuries ago. Before that time, they were believed to have no permanent homeland, living in diaspora aboard their fleets of ships, settling only briefly on the coastal areas they had pillaged. From whence they came before they appeared in our land is open to speculation, of which there has been a great deal, though that is a subject for another paper.
The word Emiri, which translates to either “seafarer” or “people of the sea,” is derived from Emir, the word for the ocean in a language that is at once simple and yet very difficult for our people to master. In my many years of study, I have yet to grasp the subtle nuances of the sea people’s tongue. I hope to produce a lengthy linguistic theorem at a later time, but that is not my goal today. Rather, I have endeavored to produce an overview of this race, for the casual student, or as a brief introduction to the more serious scholar.
Physically, the Emiri are quite different from our people. They are small and slender, with very little difference between the physiques of males and females. The skin is of a deep golden-brown color, and hair color can range from bright reds and yellows to subtler shades of rich burgundy, brown, or black. The eyes are large, usually crimson, orange, or gold. Hair is worn long by both men and women and tangled into knotted ropes adorned with beads, shells, ribbons, or rope. Hair seems a point of pride among the Emiri, and it is never cut. The Emiri also have a peculiar custom of injecting colored inks beneath the skin, rendering the designs permanent. This so-called “paint” is normally applied in swirling patterns intended to enhance the lines and curves of the body.
Unlike the goddess-fearing people of Selindria, Gaeltheon, and my homeland of Espero, the Emiri possess not a shred of modesty. Emiri of both genders, including children, are known to gallivant about without a stitch of clothing, and amazingly to us, feel no shame or embarrassment at doing so. What clothing they do don is often cobbled together from scrap, colorful, but quite sturdy. They are an inventive people, capable of making delightful and useful things from very little.
If you find the aesthetic differences between our people and the Emiri vast and surprising, you will no doubt find their cultural values utterly unbelievable, but you must trust my thorough research. Some of what I write here may seem preposterous, but I have witnessed much of it firsthand.
The Emiri have no livelihood. They neither farm nor produce goods for sale. They support themselves entirely through piracy, though they rarely kill their victims except in self-defense. Often, though they collect vast quantities of valuable goods, they squander their wealth in a few short months. They put nothing aside for posterity, invest nothing in their homes, save nothing for leaner times. The optimism that they possess, the idea they will always find more wealth when they need it, precludes any good sense. Fine furnishings, respectable clothing, and any other form of permanent wealth hold little meaning for them. In what seems a contradiction, they are quite fond of jewelry. When they are not pirating, the Emiri are entirely indolent, spending time drinking, sleeping, fishing, and engaged in the unnatural sexual practices I will now describe.
I must warn that what you are about to read may seem appalling, but I include it for the sake of being thorough. The Emiri have no families, no concept of husband, wife, and offspring. Instead, they live together in groups, often of several males and several females, all of whom engage in intimate relationships, often in groups of more than two. They refer to the members of these groups as “syrai” which to the best of my ability, translates to “friend.” For this reason, no Emiri knows his paternal heritage, and lineage, if it is tracked at all, is done so through the mother’s line. Any resulting children are raised communally by their group. Most shocking of all, the Emiri find nothing wrong with unnatural relationships: men with men or women with women.
Clearly, the teachings of the Thirteen Goddesses have not reached the people of the sea. They seem to follow no religious teachings at all, though I have heard them refer to the sea as a mother figure, one who delivers her blessings or wrath upon a whim. Though not a formal deity, the Emiri revere the ocean as providing everything they need. They also have no governing body, no one in charge of decision-making or the upholding of laws, of which they have few, if any. Each person simply does as he or she chooses, and no one desires to stop him. Power over others is a concept virtually unknown to the Emiri, as is the idea of any person having more value than another, as our aristocracy does. Woe be it upon any man who attempts to explain the concepts to an Emiri, for they cannot understand!
In spite of valuing little above freedom, sloth, food, drink, and their perverse pleasures, the Emiri possess some unique abilities. They can swim far faster and far greater distances than even the most athletic among our people. They also have an interesting talent for finding their bearing on the open ocean, without the use of charts or even the stars, and some have compared their ability to pilot their ships, even in the most unfavorable conditions, to sorcery. The ships themselves are unmatched for speed and maneuverability, and our people have yet to replicate their construction.
It is my sincere hope that my brief introduction has allowed at least a glimpse into a bizarre and often unfathomable culture. In closing, I must say that, though immoral savages, the Emiri seem to live in peace amongst themselves. Currently, they occupy the southern shores of Selindria and Gaeltheon, and their population is especially dense in the islands at the mouth of the Kanda River, and archipelago the Emiri call “The Twenty-Nine.” Attempts to drive them from lands they have no claim to have resulted in a string of failures. It is the greatest fear of our ruling classes that the immoral beliefs and behaviors of the Emiri will infect good, goddess-fearing people, but as a scholar, I hold no such fear. My research into the dissolute lives of these ruffians has led me to find little that would appeal to the righteous.
Iron and Ether is the third book in The Blessed Epoch series:
Sasha was born to, and has always defined himself by, the secret assassins’ Order of the Crimson Scythe. He chose the love of Yarrow L’Estrella and Duncan Purefroy over his duty to his clan, forfeiting his last mission and allowing Prince Garith to live. Now, the order—previously Sasha’s family—has branded him a traitor. He’s marked, and that means the brethren of the Crimson Scythe won’t stop until Sasha is dead.
Garith’s twin kingdoms balance on the brink of war and all three men have reasons to help the King, whether loyalty, duty, or the interests of their own lands. Still, Yarrow and Duncan are willing to seek out and destroy the assassins’ order to keep Sasha safe. But Sasha isn’t sure that’s what he wants. None want to admit their energy would be better spent helping Garith keep the kingdom united, or in his war against foreign invaders. All plans and assumptions shatter when it becomes clear that the real warmonger isn’t a foreigner, but someone who lives in their midst. Their world teeters on the precipice of change, and Sasha, Duncan, and Yarrow can only hope the links they’ve forged will hold if Garith’s kingdom is torn apart.
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
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