By the Blade!
Way of Life
Differently from other fantasy worlds, the Dread Sea Dominions aren’t dormant. In a few thousand years, they have evolved from the stone age to the current iron age. Yet, this isn’t true for all the Dominions, since certain populations (like the Caleds, the Pygmies and the tribes of the Ivory Savannah) are still primitive.
This field overlaps that of magic. The Lotus masters are experts in drug and poison making, but only from the Lotus plants. The Alchemists of Gis, instead, are true scientists and know how to use Greek fire, acids, and similar things. Their concoctions are very costly and seldom sold outside the city. Kyros, Syranthia and the Independent Cities know glass.
Coins made of metals are used in civilized lands, but their value is determined by the trading value of salt. Barter is widespread in the remote, uncivilized areas along the borders of the Empire. The Empire adopted the Syranthian Moon as official currency, and this roughly circular coin is now common in all the ports and markets of the Dominions.
Since literacy is rare, minstrels, musicians and tale-tellers are very important as they are actors and mimes. Especially in the southern lands, dancing is a very common form of recreation. Many enjoy the “blood sports”, originally from Tricarnia: shows in the arena where gladiators slaughter (or get slaughtered by) massive beasts and other desperate warriors.
These violent games are appreciated by both the nobility and the commoners alike, especially in big cities where the games in the arena and the distribution of free food keep the masses at bay and ease the burden of living in a decadent Empire.
Agriculture is the main source of food in the Empire but outside its boundaries (and in the most depressed areas, like the Borderlands) hunting and harvesting are by far the most common way of surviving. In the Savannah and among the Valk herding is widespread. In the past, several populations knew how to use the iron plow but, in the current period, few have retained this skill, since iron must be used for weapons and armors, not for farming. Crop rotation is still unknown.
Most folks travel on foot, while the rich have horses or carriages. Many paved roads, named Imperial Roads, were built in the past but today they are generally abandoned and infested by bandits. The Valk always ride; a Valk that cannot ride is abandoned and left to die by the rest of his tribe. The Cairnlords also uses carriages, sometimes pulled by rams, and the top warriors of the Iron Savannah ride the impressive and savage war buffalos.
The most advanced form of government is the oligarchy of the merchant lords of Syranthia, but various forms of monarchy are the standard government in most lands.
Ninety percent of the population cannot read and write these days. The most educated lands are Syranthia, Tricarnia (limited to the nobles), Caldeia, Faberterra, Kyros and Lhoban (limited to the monks).
Outside the largest cities, witchcraft, superstition and midwifery are the closest things to medical science while in the cities there are medics and barbers. Syranthia also has an academy of medicine where the anatomy of man is studied. Anatomy is also well known in Tricarnia due to the traditional use of tortures.
At the height of its power, the Empire and all its subjects knew the use of iron and even started experimenting with a better, lower-carbon league called steel but today it is very rare. The barbaric Northlanders, Cairn Lords, and the Savannah Tribes know only bronze, but they can acquire better metal weapons through trading and pillaging. The Caleds and the Pygmies don’t use any metal.
The ships of the Dominions are quite primitive and usually sail close to the coast. The biggest vessels are the Tricarnian galleys but the most maneuverable are the Syranthian merchant ships, which can be seen in all parts of the world. The Amazons too are very skilled sailors, and they use a particular type of sail unknown to the other cultures.
Nowadays, the strongest warriors are Valk mounted archer with armor of boiled leather, a composite bone bow and a saddle with stirrups. Second bests are the fully-armored Syranthian cataphracts knights, and in third place there is the irregular barbarian infantry. The terrible war elephants of Kyros have almost disappeared today and the Iron Phalanxes are reduced to less than ten legions.