Altene

Altene:

The northwestern corner of the island nation of Tuchea is actually a separate
city-state. The Altenes are descended from mercenaries who, only a few
centuries ago, lost their land to vengeful enemies and were forced to find
new homes. They did so, and have thrived. Altene children are trained in the
arts of combat and mass battle from the time they are old enough to walk. The
tiny nation's only exports are its mercenaries, which are the finest in the
world. Altene mercenaries can be found almost anywhere; they are not cheap
but they never retreat unless ordered to. Altenes who aren't members of such
groups sometimes wander for a few years, mostly to pick up new knowledge and
weapon techniques before returning home.

Altene Appearance

In appearance, most Altenes are well-tanned or dark of skin and hair, though
there are exceptions due to intermarriage with foreign peoples. Their eyes are
usually black or dark brown, though some few families have been known to show
grey or green eyes in their bloodlines. Blue eyes are extremely rare and
almost never make an appearance without the help of foreign blood. Altenes
are mostly average to tall in height, with well-muscled physiques and angular
bone-structure.

Altene History

Altenes are a reserved people, and little is known about them. They occupy land on the isle of Tuchea, a peninsula to be exact, though this was not their original homeland. One hundred eighty years ago they were driven from their rightful land due to their own actions, in part, though they originally had tried to force back an invasion of other peoples.

The then-king Alterod led them to the northwest part of Tuchea, the peninsula, to settle, and there they built the city of Altene. Vowing that never again would they be driven from their land, Alterod caused his people to undertake a rigorous program of military training. Every man, woman, and child was trained to fight, and fight well. They kept in their minds the deeds of the hero Khoras, who had first driven out the invaders of the homeland, and who had only been dead a few decades before the Exile.

They soon adopted a stern code of honor which has become something of a religion to them. Its tenets are few and simple…Loyalty to an employer above all, and loyalty to one's people after. Even considering breaking a contract is a bad thing, and the word "oathbreaker" can and has caused tavern brawls when flung carelessly.

The Altene mercenaries 'rent' the peninsula from the Tuchean kingdom, providing service in the form of twenty-four handpicked bodyguards to the Tuchean king. This has considerably calmed internecine warfare in Tuchea, owing to the fact that that for the last one hundred eighty years any assassination attempt on the Tuchean king has never succeeded.

The presence of the bodyguards also 'reminds' the current king of his predecessors long-ago deal with Alterod on the giving of the peninsula, assuring that it never be taken from them, or they would cut him down like the oathbreaker he was.

Since there is little farmland on the peninsula, Altene must import all its foodstuffs and goods from other lands. They get most of their items from Tuchea, getting good prices even in years of shortage due to their formidable nature. The one and only thing they export is mercenaries, and they are the world's finest.

Altene History - The Journey

Long ago the people now known as Altene's lived as part of another kingdom, now long forgotten. It is said that a great cataclysm fell across the lands and the gods themselves turned their backs on mankind for the earth quaked and the sun was blotted out from the sky. During this time those who would be named after their leader rose up against their rightful master with greed in their eyes. For this crime they were cast out of their homelands, a punishment even the great hero Khoras could not prevent.

Yet still did the lust for their masters land lay within the hearts of the Altene's, it was not until Alterod himself was struck down by a fell arrow and lay dying that they realized the error of their ways, for it was then that Erai'Theran first appeared. Disguising himself as a healer he dragged the dying king out of battle, mended his wounds and saved Alterod's life. This selfless act opened Alterod's eyes to the grievous crimes he and his people had committed. At that moment Alterod began to plan the future of the Altenes.

Shutting himself away for three days Alterod set down the fundemental laws of Altene society, and placed Khoras' noble sacrifice as the ideal for every true Altene. When Alterod had finished this and finally left his tent the sun once more shone through the clouds, and Alterod realized who it was who had saved him from certain death.

Despite this, the Altene's continued to wander for several more years, and it was during this time that the Altenes took their name, honoring their stoic and saddened king. At last, they reached Tuchea, camping upon the peninsula, and watched with curiousity by the Tucheans. It was a rocky, barren place, with little land for farming, and practically none for raising herds. Some say Alterod was weary unto death with wandering, and simply decided to stop. Others say he chose the barren, rocky land as penance for his people's greed, out of shame for what they had done. Whatever the reason, Alterod decided to make the peninsula the new homeland for his people.

Alterod might have been worn down by his people's travails, and weary of flight, but he still possessed a keen and observant intellect. He had observed the rampant internecine warfare between the noble houses of Tuchea, and he knew of a way to insure his people's chosen homeland would remain theirs. He met with the King of Tuchea, and struck a deal, insuring his and his line's longevity against assassination in return for the land encompassed by the peninsula. The Tuchean King realizing the fragile position he and his kingdom where in, accepted the deal, and the Royal Altene Bodyguards were formed. With the peninsula now his, Alterod set about building a strong city embraced by thick stone walls. To protect it, he formed the Heart of Altene, an army composed of every man, woman and child left to their race. His new laws required all Altenes to be trained in combat, to honor their race, to be true to their word and the laws of their king. Never again would they would they rise in greed or envy against another.

As the peninsula was not good farming land, Alterod began to make money using the only thing he had to export; his soldiers. Thus the Five Companies, or The Fist, of Altene, was formed. They too would be exemplary in conduct, loyal to their contracts unto death, unless first broken by their employer. Thus do Altenes hate oathbreakers and those who murder their kin, and hunt and chase them mercilessly from their homeland. They will not easily tolerate speaking about oathbreakers, nor their origins, as, somewhere deep within, they hold an ancient shame for their original deed, which brought such terrible misfortune upon themselves.

Altene Religion

Altenes believe in Erai'Theran, a god equivalent to Iridine's Ereal, but more
warlike in aspect. In this life they worship him as the bringer of battle and
glory, placing the hero Khoras one step below.

All Altenes believe that death brings them to march in the legions of Incara,
or the Unnamed, an Underworld entity. Their burial ritual is elaborate, and it
is believed that if it is interrupted, the deceased will lose his way on the
paths of Hades and wander forever lost.

The deceased is placed with all armor and weapons to hand atop a burial pyre
(if one is available), and decorated with his sifaro's (shield-brother's)
blood in runes over his arms and chest. A fierce face is drawn in blood over
his own face, to scare the shades of Hades and make them flee his approach.
To guide his steps, an open eye is drawn on his forehead. Some Altenes have
been known to draw closed eyes on the foreheads of their enemies, thereby
consigning them to everlasting wandering on the paths of the dead.

Lastly, his sifaro whispers one last message into the deceased's ear before
the burning of the body…what this is is intensely private, and no foreigner
has ever discovered what this message might be.

Altene Mercenaries

Altene mercenaries will never retreat in battle unless ordered to by their
employer. They work as a fierce fighting team, moving seemingly as one for
their commander. Many have been the enemies who have broken and run at the
first sight of their banners.

There are five main Companies of Altene mercenaries, and these are known as
the Hand, or Fist, of Altene. They are the Grey Swans, the Black Wolves, the
Red Badgers, the White Sharks, and the Lionesses (an all-female company).
They have their headquarters in various places on the peninsula, as well as
winter quarters in other lands. Rarely, a company will admit a foreigner into
their ranks, but this person must have proved him or herself in battle and
immersed him or herself in Altene culture to the point where everything but
their blood is Altene.

The home army of Altene is known as the Heart of Altene, and all young
mercenaries must serve at least four years in it before going to a Company.
Rarely an Altene mercenary will choose not to join a Company but will strike
out on his own. This is looked on as strange by his brothers and sisters,
but should he later return to join a Company, he will be welcomed back as if
he had never been away.

Altenes live the simple, hard-working lives of soldiers, with a soldier's
philosophical view of things. They are usually straightforward to the point
of painful bluntness, seeing no value in dissembling or padding the truth.
They are stand-offish with foreigners, and usually make friends outside of
their own people slowly, preferring to see the whole worth of a person
before committing to any kind of relationship. They are not boasters, knowing
their worth and prowess and not needing to display it to prove themselves.
In this vein, many of them are contemptuous of gladiators, or 'show-fighters',
whose flamboyant costumes and swirling showy fighting tactics seem to them
the height of foolishness and wasted motion.

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