Tales from the Inner Sea
Situated about 50 kilometres to the north of Bassur on the southern coast of the Inner Sea lies the large and labyrinthine Cletian Archipelago. Long a byword for stubborn independence and possessed of a unique islander culture, the Cletians had been a Protectorate of the Empire for hundreds of years before the Great Civil War, and the Cletians wasted no time in reasserting their formal independence when the last of the Imperial troops departed. With their own language spoken and a rich literary and artistic tradition, the Cletians enjoyed a very prosperous period of almost 2 hundred years, adopting a democratic and free thinking ruling style. The Cletian Archipelago is blessed with verdant lush grasslands, sun dappled forests and waters bountiful with fish and other sealife, and the forests yielded wood excellent for ships, housing and general use. They had a good navy, entirely devoted to self defence and militia style army rather than a full time professional body of troops. Their poetry, literature and own style of architecture set them apart from all other cultures within the Inner Sea, and for a time some visitors almost dubbed it an island utopia; that is, until the year 209, when the Bassuri (a long time ally and close trading partner) invaded in a lightning strike of navy and army. Resistance was brutally and efficiently crushed, and the many atrocities (both real and elaborated upon) the Bassuri forces committed have passed into the poetry and legends of not just the Cletians (whose own works are perhaps the most poignant) but of others nations.
The Bassuri since then have tried to make the islands in their own image, but the relentless passive resistance, guerilla attacks and indomitable spirit of the Cletians has caused the Bassuri many problems and difficulties. The Bassuri have tried many ways to bring the Cletians around, from trying to rule lightly, not completely stamping out the indigenous culture and more recently in adopting a more hardline and punitive ruling style, but all to no avail. The Cletians will accept no less than their freedom, and even though the toll upon Bassuri military and settlers is a steady drain, the bountiful riches of the Archipelago are resources the Bassuri will not yield up.
The Cletian is a distinctive individual, preferring light easy colourful clothing in local cotton with the men and women alike wearing short tunics and knee breeches, wearing either soft shoes or going barefoot. They are fair to blonde haired, with eyes ranging from amber to green, and can be accounted quite comely to look at. They do not tend towards being tall, but most have an athletic build, and they are renowned sailors and swimmers. Their weapon preferences lean towards spears, staves and the skill of Cletian slingers is renowned with conventional slings and the famous Cletian Staff Sling. Weapons in any case are now banned by the Bassuri Governor who rules from the former Cletian capital Saraudah (though many Cletians train in secret and have hidden caches).
The Cletian resistance has never been penetrated by the Bassuri authorities and instances of a Cletian betraying a fellow countryman are almost unheard of, such is the cultural bond between these passionate islanders. The leader of the resistance is named the Caccariii and though the person may change over the years, what they represent is a Robin Hood style freedom fighter and beacon of hope. There is also a very famous Armavine sorceror called Merovicus who is known to live secretly within the Isles and aid the Cletian peoples; so much is his effectiveness that the Bassuri have a price on his head currently at 60,000 Lara, with a price of 100,000 lara on the head of the Caccarii.
Their art is very much a part of their identity, with graceful and simple housing styles often seamlessly merging with the natural environment, whether it is tree houses of surprising sophistication to houses built on sturdy stilts over waters and lakes. Sculpture in wood and Jade is popular, and their cuisine uses many of the unique spices found only within the Cletian Isles, in fish, crustacean, fruit, vegetable and mutton/lamb dishes. They also brew a local sugar based beverage called Tachai (very much like rum) that is regarded as one of the great alcoholic pleasures within the seas. Poetry is elegant, emotive and intimate to them, and their music relies upon drum, wind, and harplike instruments. Their singing is low and washes over a listener like the waves of the sea, and jewellery made from jade, emeralds, rubies and sapphires which are part of the natural resources of the Islands.
In matters of religion they follow the gods though more often as lay members, with Sensu and Bumi-Bijiran being especially popular, though their approach to matters of faith are more informal, with their clergy being distinct from the orthodoxy found elsewhere in the Inner Sea in that they wear little different than their Initiates and focus more on hands on work and supporting the community. There is also a very strong local Cult who revere a spirit or deity called Ussarissia, and all Cletians revere her as well as the more widely known gods.
Regarding shipping, Cletians are now limited to the vessel called the Wobanni, a vessel between 20 and 30 metres long with a single square rigged sail, with 4 to 6 rowers on either side and steered by 2 sailors using 2 large paddles at the rear. It is an excellent if slow vessel within the shallow waters of the Archipelago but a vessel completely unsuitable for ocean going travel, which prevents Cletians leaving the islands and stopping the trade in smuggled weapons and aid coming in.
A large force of light infantry assist in the policing of the Cletian Archipelago, and also a decent sized navy of Monoreme warships patrol the waterways and inlets; however, nobody knows their land as well as the Cletians who seem to have a deep spiritual connection to each island and waterway that confounds and defies the Bassuri understanding.