Pelezian funeral customs
The Pelezians, or 'clay people' were strongly bound to the earth. In fertile plains and valleys they lived their happy existence, peaceful, yet ever on their guard. Many nomadic attackers they defeated, until a different enemy came; their advanced technology and weapons (and magic) were beyond the skills of defenders. One-by-one their settlements fell, until the clay people were not more.
To the greedy students of the past, their heritage is but not forgotten.
The most prominent feature of their culture was indeed clay. Whether baked or dried bricks, their houses were built of it, their pottery was of unrivaled quality even long afterwards. Their greatest weakness was not knowing the secret of metal. While in technology they were surely above the primitives around, they somehow failed to harness gold, copper or iron. Some claim it had religious reasons, but I fear the truth won't be known anymore.
As for weaponry, the Pelezzians valued bows at most, and these weapons were treasured highly. Sadly, few of the quality bows are still usable. The arrowheads are used even today.
A single building was a small cuboid thing, but most families had several, a settlement thus had many. One leaning on another, some built on the top of others, a very compact village it was. While a bit cramped, it offered excellent defense in its time: to the outside there were no windows or doors, alarmed defenders simply pulled the ladders up, the attackers now facing a bare wall and a rain of arrows. Good protection against nomads on horse or feet, but certainly no match for siege engines of today.
(A few images of similar buildings would do fine here... think houses of the native american people, or the mexican pueblos.)
Primitive as they may look to us, they were skilled at using water, each village was connected to nearby springs, each house with own fresh water and drainage. Once an enterprising robber, err, I mean explorer took the pains to dig out all the pipes of a lost city, and made an excellent business. It is said these pipes serve until today.
Of still greater importance were their waterworks - the canals, pools and dams secured water; it appears the climate used to be much more dry then.
Their love for pearls made them hoard it, and keep in hidden places. While used in some ritual context (the dead were often buried with pearls), they were most probably used as currency for significant deals. They collected other gems and precious stones, but always kept them raw. It seems the art of gem-cutting escaped them, too.
Their artwork is still valued today - especially the black pottery, the secret of its production long lost, can fetch a nice sum. Small baked figurines are perhaps the most common find, one or more in each room can be expected, depicting scenes from their life. As their quality varies, it appears that even small children were expected to make them. The figurines may have a ritual meaning as well, some dead can be found clutching them in their hands. Actual statues are rare.
The Pelezians have known writing, but they used it mostly for ritual purposes and the keeping legends. For this purposes they used animal skins and inks that stay readable until today, few are but able to read them.
One interesting side-effect of their views on afterlife is but, that they never mention the names of the dead, not in the graves, not elsewhere. It is all proper to call upon your ancestors for advice, but bugging them even after hundreds of year is out of form. The Dead have to be remembered in persona, and are not to be disturbed for trivial reasons.
For same reasons, there were very few but the most legendary heroes mentioned explicitly in their legends; in all such cases are descriptions and nicknames used.
As for Afterlife beliefs, theirs was a strongly spiritualistic world view. With spirits influencing their daily life, they relied on their ancestors for guidance and protection. To keep their Dead close to our world, they built graves for the body, and homes for the spirit, two in one.
The graves were usually built in caves, or at least close to a solid stone wall. Built from baked and dried bricks, walls are often easy to tear down, or even forced like a door! But that is not always a good idea. (We will speak of traps in a moment.)
Layout - numerous small rooms and corridors, creating intricate layouts; there exist many half-secret passages leading nowhere. Many walls can be easily collapsed, though it is not always a good idea. Cave-ins are a real danger, traps are also very possible.
Pelezzians are remembered as the inventors of Alchemy. Knowing well that graves tend to be ambushed, they prepared many mechanical and other traps for unwelcome visitors. Yes, things can catch on fire mysteriously. And yes, some containers explode when opened.
The worst is a strange gas without scent (with a greenish colour if concentrated), it irritates skin, eyes and the nose, leaving you crying, half blind and disoriented. The gas was often filled into eggs, which were carefully built into walls. So if you tear down any wall, be careful, and wear some protection (shields don't count). Luckily not all tombs are equipped in this way.
Rarely, the whole complex can be suddenly filled with water. Think of what happens with all those dried mud bricks around...
One especially annoying feature of their architecture has a simple cause: spirits are not hindered by matter, right? Many times, a fancy carved stone door or window is only solid rock, a foot or more strong stone is hard to overcome for many an explorer. The room behind such a 'door' was digged and furnished from some other side, surely walled up now.
There exist a few gigantic temple/burial areas - having no interior at all, all bodies were covered with stones, every single grave enlarging the temple. These holy places possibly hold great treasures, but it would take years, even centuries to remove all the stones. Also, as ages pass by they are more and more covered by vegetation and mistaken for small hills.
Sages speculate this architecture has influenced the Payan one.
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? Responses (9)
Good solid work. I like this.
I like it too.
Anything dealing with the burial customs of a long-lost race is gold for me! I especially like fact that they used clay... Hard to explain, but it lends a real authentic-archaic feeling to the whole thing. Original and satisfying! One question - in what type of landscape would these dwellings be found? Desert?
I thought I had voted for this piece a long time ago. My appologies. The Customs series not only gives you culture, it provides you with a foundation for dungeoning. Very handy.
Updated: Fixed/edited a few things and added a few bits, impacted by afterlife beliefs.
I echo sparK!'s thoughts. Very atmospheric! I'm transported to the Pelezian world as I read this.
another great setting. Very nicely laid out and very beleivable.
Subs on long lost people hold an especial interest for me and this sub certainly presents this particular people well.