Yocana was furious. Only a few days ago, some of the ocean children had stolen into his lair and made off with the Conch Of Fore-sight in his absence. And now the divine sage found himself without his most prized possession that had the ability to whisper the shrouded events of the future into his ears. Mighty and proud, the Ocean Children were beings of vast power, massive levitations, each capable of devouring an entire host of immortals and minor gods. Against their combined strength, not even his divine mace would prevail. But that would not prevent his vengeance from manifesting itself. Cursing the thieves of the Conch, the great sage uttered a powerful invocation that would cause the plunderers to quarrel and fall out among themselves, all thought of sharing among themselves the possession of the holder of creation’s secrets replaced by a desire to seize and hide it from the others. For nine days and nights they fought each other, the very ocean shaking to its trembling core as the waters became red from the mortal wounds that the fearsome titans inflicted on one another. But for some of them, the sheer terror of being slaughtered by the most powerful and rapacious among their number for the prize, finally outweighed their thoughts of greed, persuading them to appeal desperately to Innara, Lady Of The Moon, begging her to find them sanctuary away from the ocean, a place where the vicious struggle among their larger cousins would not be able to reach them .
Compassionate and loving, the Moon Damsel hearkened to answer their prayers. Taking the form of an immense giantess, she reached down form the very heavens and plucked the bleeding, terrified Ocean Children and their minions from the depths of the ocean. Now having rescued her petitioners , she pondered for a moment on what to do with them. In the ocean they could no longer find refuge,and yet creations of the ocean they yet remained. Unless she thought of something soon, they would quickly perish, removed as they were from the briny embrace of their mother. Then the solution struck her, as her consort, Morkun, master of wisdom, discharged into her trunk his shaft of inspiration. As it sunk deep into her, she tossed the ocean Children onto the landmass of several large islands, taking great care that each individual Ocean Child dispersed with his host from the rest, commanding the winds to carry him and his retinue of minions to safety. Landing gently upon the soil of their new homes, each Ocean Child and his host alike found their bodies wrecked by great agony as their hulking frames begun to shrink and take on the human guise that would allow them to live in their new home.
And so the fathers of the race of Pan-Kor came into being. Taking lovers from among the daughters of the native islanders, these former lords of the ocean and their inhuman underlings mixed their otherworldly ichor with the blood-line of mortals to create a race unlike no other to inhabit Acqua.
The tempestuous seas and oceans of Acqua are vast, and for all their delusions, neither the monolithic DeMadden Company of mighty Banhosea, nor its formidable arch-rivals and foes among the Kraken confederacy can ever claim them as their bowing salves. The great leaders of these two fiercely opposed sides imagine that in the whole of Acqua, none exists who can put up a determined front in the face of either of their advances. But they would be gravely wrong.
The rulers of Pan-Kor would put to shameful flight this misconceived notion borne of sheer arrogance. Ferocious and proud, ruthless yet generous, these are men who claim to be more than men, and one may well belief it, were he ever to leave the margins of the known world to sojourn to the kingdom of Pan-Kor, resplendent and menacing in all its savage, barbaric glory. Words alone would prove inadequate to do full justice to his strange, frightening realm.
Every man and woman of Pan-Kor from the king down to the most humble fisherman, possesses within his veins the heritage of the sea divinities that fathered the race of Pan-Kor. Valorous and proud, fond of luxury and splendor, the Pan-Kor continue to worship and pay lavish homage to the Ocean Children that fathered the various noble lines which rule their maritime empire. So closely does the history of their semi-divine heritage embrace the culture and mentality of the Pan-Kor, that these people as a whole, are somewhat haughty and disdainful when it comes to their perception of foreign cultures and nations. To quote a popular Pan-Kor proverb, ‘‘Among the nations of men, only we stand as the scions of great fathers ‘’. This is a powerful testament to the Pan-Kor belief that all other kinds of men are an inferior species, common creatures that will never equal the exalted status of the Ocean’s descendants. Should you ever visit their land, expect a cool, disdainful reception. The Pan-Kor respect none but their own.
A tall strapping people, the Pan-Kor are of generous proportions. Most Pan-Kor men are large and stocky ,while the women tend to voluptuousness. Their skin is of a dark copper hue, while their eye are generally of varying black and brown hues. The hair on their heads is soft and wavy, often being done up in elaborate braids and knots. Clothing is often kept to the bare minimum deemed vital for their very limited demands where modesty is concerned. A stifling climate in the tropics has molded the notions of propriety in such a manner as to create a society where even noble-born women choose to leave their bosoms entirely bare in public gaze. The excessive clothing donned by other races would be seen by them as a measures designed to guard the inadequacies of bodes that simply cannot bear comparison to the proud and regal frames of the Pan-Kor.
But this fact, shocking as it might seem to conservative Jovians and even to the more open-minded worshipers of Ulamnia, is not as intriguing as that other unique feature about the Pan-Kor which truly separates them from all the known humans tribes and nations of Acuqa.
For every one of them , without exception, carries the distinct and noticeable odor of the sea, briny and powerful. Sometimes, a Pan-Kor may choose to mask this scent with something more gentle, but it is always present, wafting out of their skins like invisible halos. The more ignorant foreigners that trade with the Pan-Kor attribute this oddity to some obsession the Pan-Kor perfumers might have with the ocean breeze, but those outsiders who know it to be as much part of a Pan-Kor’s body as his skin and hair, muse if there is indeed some truth to the proud oral epics that declaim the origins of this people.
Perhaps it is an appropriate national heritage for people who are as in love with the sea as the Pan-Kor. Much of their verbally inherited poetry is dominated by the central theme of life being as turbulent and mercurial as the great body of water thats sustains their way of life. All their great temples are are built on hills overlooking the famous gold beaches, and every little fishing village has its resident priest conduct the daily ritual of rowing out to the sea and scattering the modest offerings of the villages who beseech the great-power of the depths to grant their wishes for an excellent catch of fish. Even Pan-Kor infants are baptized in the sea, a practice that is believed to grant them the favor of the ocean mother for the rest of their lives. Most striking of all is the fact that every Pan-Kor is born with the inherent ability to swim gracefully from the moment he is first brought into the arms of the ocean’s, during the rite of baptism. A gift that never deserts them, it has created a race that is unequaled in the water among all the mortal races to inhabit Acqua.
The Pa-Kor have more physical ways of demonstrating their love for the sea as well. After they attain age of four, the natural trait of the Pan-Kor children reaches its optimum peak, and they become adept swimmers, moving swiftly through the bright waters of their tropical islands with a lithe agility that enables them to participate with ease in most favored sport of the Pan-Kor, namely spear-fishing. Performed by both male and female, the national past-time of ambushing and impaling large fish with their short iron-tipped spears sates the appetite of the Pan-Kor who relish in the violence and excitement of the hunt. For Pan-Kor boys, spear-fishing takes on a more symbolic importance when their time of man-hood comes. Upon reaching the age of sixteen, the village head-men order all the young boys of the village to gather before him and the elders. Handing each youth a six foot long spear tipped with a wickedly barbed point, they are instructed to enter the sea and bring back a dorsal fin and tooth belonging to one of the ocean’s most dangerous predators:A tiger shark. Though understandably unsettled and nervous, the young boys are nevertheless determined to prove that they are worthy of the Pan-Kor. Each one of his friends parting from the company of the others, the young hunter swims into the crystal waters of the sea where there have been recent sightings of the vicious brutes which he seeks. Steeling himself, he nicks his arm with the tip of his pear. Within a second, a long thin ribbon of blood spills into the near transparent sea, acting as a beacon to the nearest tiger shark on the prowl for an easy meal. And the hunter waits patiently for his quarry to show itself, all his senses attuned to the slightest change in the currents flowing around him.
When the massive fish finally shows itself and and lunges at his vulnerable legs with its vicious maw and all its savage teeth, the youthful hero raises his spear high, and in one fluid movement, his powerful arms built like stone from years spent hauling large fish into the canoe of his father, ram the spear point deep into the blunt, brutal head of the ravenous monster. Eyes shut in ferocious concentration, he continues to thrust the spear with all the strength his arms can muster, until the deadly beast finally succumbs to the mortal wound inflicted on its brain and ceases to thrash as death overtakes it. Once he is sure that the creature is dead, the young Pan-Kor moves swiftly to rip off its dorsal fin. Having accomplished that, he then reaches with a hand wrapped in a shark skin glove to grab one of the wickedly serrated teeth jutting out of the fearsome array of fangs in its now slack jaws. He works feverishly, knowing that the shark’s violent demise will soon bring more of its brothers to the scene.
Once both fin and tooth have been harvested, he swims back to the shore, beaming with pride that he has done honor to the ancient sea-being which fathered his family line eons ago in the time of the hazy, mythical past. A true son of the ocean has just proven his worthiness to prowl its waters.
On the shores, the head-man and village priest await the young victors. As they kneel reverentially before the latter, he blesses the trophies they have taken, passing them in front of a wooden statue of the local sea-deity, begging this fabled ancestor of the village folk to eternally bless his young descendants, endowing their first spoil of victory with with his divine favor. Once his chants have ended, he grabs a nearby cup of ink in preparation for the painful ritual that is to follow. One by one in their turn, the young boys are summoned to seat before him as he takes the teeth of their slain quarries from them and begin to sharpen away at the serrated sides until only a single, keen point is left. Taking that, he dips its edge in the vat of black dye and begins to tattoo the sacred incantations on their skin. No intoxicants are given to ease the pain, and the newly initiated grit their teeth in agony, as the sacred symbols and runes designed to invoke the protection of the village’s founding ancestor, is slowly carven into his skin. Elaborate whorls and spirals, with the the odd cursive symbol thrown in here and there, these intricate tapestries of skin and ink proudly display images of the ancestral leviathan in his various forms. No less than encoded spell, the tattoos call upon the power of the ancestor to lend the wearers of the tattoos great strength and endurance, they who have proven themselves worthy by returning triumphant from the hunt with the teeth of their first slain foe. As evening falls, to be swiftly followed by night, rejoicing fills the village as the young men paint the colors of victory on their bodies and begin to dance in tune to the voices of the women and girls, their faces flush with freshly brewed toddy as they celebrate the victory of their first kill.
This dangerous passage into manhood fosters among the men of the Pan-Kor the mind-set and skills of a warrior. Though most Pan-Kor are overwhelmingly fishermen by profession, they are expected to muster to arms should the reigning noble require his levies to raid a foreign rebellious vassal or repel an attack by pirates. The same skills that they employ to stab and impale large carnivorous fish like sharks, serve as a prelude to the time when they will find themselves boarding a hostile ship. Human bodies are much easier to penetrate than the heavily muscled bodies of sharks and the Pan-Kor are especially feared for the vicious ease with which they wield their deadly stabbing spears. Wandering bands of inhuman Shura that have encountered these men, have come to both respect and fear the Pan-Kor warriors for their ability to fight with such ferocity and skill, as well as the phenomenal ability of this strange breed to hold their breath when submerged beneath the sea, for far long than seems possible for mere humans. Though these bitter and violent folk loathe the Pan-Kor for hunting their sacred totem, the shark, they grudgingly find themselves comparing the ferocity of Pan-Kor in battle, to that of their own warriors. The Pan-Kor for their part consider the Shura to be former water-divinities fallen from grace through some unforgivable act. It is a volatile combination of grudging respect and enmity that exist between these two warlike peoples.
The Nobility and Lineage of Pan-Kor
As has been stated earlier, the heritage of the Pan-Kor is their biggest source of pride, with even the humblest clan claiming some retainer of an Ocean Child as its great originator. And what is true for the common folk must most certainly hold true for the ten noble houses that serve the King of Pan-Kor. All of them are descended from the Ocean Children who were brought tot he islands by the Moon’s grace, and make every effort to display that fact to both local and foreign visitors alike. Their bodies adorned with the tattoos depicting their ancestor, and clad in the finest silks and gem-encrusted gold finery, a Pan-Kor noble lounging on his wooden throne might stake ignorant eyes as the very image of a decadent barbarian prince. That would be a potentially dangerous under-estimation. A skilled warrior who has butchered his fair share of both sharks and men, the Pan-Kor noble is determined to honor his ancestors in everything he does. A skilled practitioner in the proud oral tradition of Pan-Kor’s poetry, he can spin sweeping verses with majestic imagery. And his interest in the finer arts such as dancing the hypnotic ritual dances of the Pan-Kor and singing his own elegant compositions in tune to the music played by his female concubines, makes him one of the most cultured foreign dignitaries any Company official is likely to meet. Determined to impress, he can nevertheless be a congenial and gracious host, eager to see that no one has cause to complain of his hospitality. And the well thought-out compliments that he pays to someone whom he deems worthy of breeding with, never fail to please in both their elegance and acute observation.
Perhaps observation is what one would respect the most about a Pan-Kor noble. For much like the Shogun of Bahosea, he runs a great trading guild that controls the trade in gems, spices and amethyst that passes through the waters where his influence holds sway. In keeping with the teachings of the great sages who have always insisted that a man can do no better than to leave riches behind for his children, a noble is often careful to amass a vast fortune by carefully regulating and taxing the trade that lies within his domain. But not content with simply restricting himself to taxing merchants, he has his own agents travel in the sleek trading vessels of the Pan-Kor, to call at foreign ports where trade goods produced by the craftsmen of the noble’s realm is much valued. Good examples would be the excellently crafted spears of the Pan-Kor, their ornate curved daggers, as well as their elaborate wooden fans. Extracting them from the craftsmen of his domain as tribute, he sells them in carefully controlled amounts to his nearest foreign neighbors. The gold that rushes in to fill his coffers from this trade ensures that that aristocrat never has reason to fear penury. Additionally, foreign merchant vessels passing through an area where the nobles zone of influence lies strong are offered the services of his guild. Armed escorts to guard against the pirates whom abound in these waters, fresh provisions to last them through the voyage, and safe stopping-points provided along their trading route by the armed depots run by the ruling lord, are all given to passing traders in return for a reasonable fee. By doing this, the Pan-Kor have made it worthwhile for an overwhelming part of the merchant traffic to sail through
their commercial net-works.
It is strictly forbidden for any of his noble cousins to attempt undercut him by selling the same products in his zone of influence. As tempting as it might seem for individual nobles in the short run, such a practice would eventually lead to great hostility and resentment among the noble houses. For this reason, it is considered a strict code of honor that nobles are required never to violate, if they value their honor as a peer of the realm.
In return for the great freedom of action permitted to them by the king, the nobles must honor their royal cousin with a yearly tribute, as well as muster a fleet should the king ever go to war with another nation. When the king declares war, every noble house summons all the men capable of bearing spears and order them to row out to sea to meet the foes menacing their nations strength on the open waters of the Ocean Mother. Hurling spears and discharging arrows which have had their points wrapped in burning rags, a Pan-kor noble personally commands his swift long-ships that have been built into the terrifying likeness of the great ancestor being that birthed his line. Screaming his war-cries, he stands proudly from his flag-ship, the prows of his fleet carved into the terrifying, gaping visages of the ancestor and their sides gleaming with the golden scales of their great protector. As battle commences, he leads his personal guard in firing cloud after blazing cloud of arrows and spears that have had their points wrapped in blazing rags thoroughly soaked with fat and oil. Very few enemy ships can stand before the ferocious assault of fire that the unerring aim of the Pan-Kor pour down on them. Enemy warriors attempting to storm the ship of the Pan-Kor war-leader and slay him, find themselves repelled by the ferocious throngs of painted Pan-Kor warriors clad in nothing but their tattoos and intricately carved wooden war-masks that depict the hideous, horned visages of their monstrous ancestors. As battle is joined, the tattoos swarming across their naked bodies soon seem to burn with a nebulous eerie greenish glow. As this weird, eldritch light races across their bare skins, the warriors find their arms filled with a massive strength that fills their minds with the all-consuming desire to let their spears glut themselves on the blood of the enemy. Unleashing a terrible, blood-curdling reptilian hiss uncannily like that of an enraged sea drake, the Pan-Kor drive their spears right through the first soft, yielding bodies to meet their points, and continue thrusting their weapons right into the next row of fighters trembling behind the skewered corpses of their comrades. Archers among the foe may may rain arrows down on them unceasingly, but their efforts will avail them little. Once a Pan-Kor warrior has entered this alerted state brought about by the power of the ancestor tattoos, pain becomes a sensation that cannot reach him. Eventually, their lord himself succumbs to this battle madness, and with his own tattoos alight, he begins to rub the blood of mangled foes onto himself, painting the colors of victory much as he did for the first time as a sixteen year-old returning fresh from his victory over the shark.
But most dreaded of all, are the Pan-Kor priests that sometimes accompany the lords on their most daring raids. These men unleash sacred incantations that call upon monstrous bloated fiends to slither from the waters and reach out with their malformed tentacles to seize the enemy form the decks of their vessels, dragging them into the dark depths. These are the Vuhal, the accursed slaves of the ancestors, ever ready to come to the aid of the descendants of the mighty ones that rule over them. Prior to the start of most battles on the seas, the Pan-Kor raiders often torment the imagination of their foes by screaming of the terrible atrocities the Vuhal will inflict on them. They are the terrible minions of the ancestors and the fearsome allies of the Pan-Kor. Among the people of the islands, there exists a popular saying which goes ‘‘Cross Vuhal-Kir''. It is short-hand for any action that will result in one’s ultimate destruction.
There are none in the southern climes who do not fear the might of the Pan-Kor lords and the brutal raids they will inflict on those that dare to insult their royal master and over-lord by refusing to pay tribute. Too well they understand the appetite for the Pan-Kor masses for plunder, and the willingness of their noble rulers to unleash that hunger against those that would challenge the might of their people. Villages completely emptied of their inhabitants by Pan-Kor raiders, stand as chilling testament to the foolishness of defying the hegemony of Pan-Kor.
The House Of Shingoth
Paramount among the 11 noble houses of Pan-Kor, is that of Shingoth, the mighty Water Lord as the simple folk of Pan-Kor name him. Far grander titles are employed by the nobility and the priestly caste to describe this powerful deity who holds sway over the ocean, but there is only one in existence that even they are forbidden to employ. ‘‘Uhanrgu'', is how the reigning king of Pan-Kor is allowed to refer to the night omnipotent beings that stand only one step below Mother Ocean herself in the divine scale of power. It can roughly translate to mean ‘‘brother’’ or ‘‘twin''. The great rambling epics that serve as the history of the Pan-Kor , have always stressed the powerful mystical bond that exist between the ruling king who occupies the Naga Throne, and the god who manifests himself as the vast water serpent whose thrashing tail can swiftly the previously serene waters of ocean into a thrashing cauldron of sweeping tsunamis which ravage the various islands scattered through the seas. The king is believed to be no less than the earthy, human manifestation of Shingohth’s sibling, the only remnant of his unborn brother whom was murdered so long ago by their wicked father. Over millennia, the wandering soul of Shingoth’s slain little bother, ever yearning to taste that power and sovereignty that was to have been his, continues to successively reincarnate himself in the body of the reigning king, sharing that flesh with the soul of that most powerful mortal. Every king of Pan-Kor is thus decreed a brother to the fearsome god and is treated as such. Acknowledged as the Son Of the Ocean, and ruler of the known world this living god among men has elaborate annual sacrifices of both animals and virgins made in his honor on the date of his birthday. A huge pyre is constructed in the court-yard of his palace, and upon it are heaped both the sacrifice beast and the young unblemished women. Once it is lit, it takes a few hours for the wretched victims to be brunt to congealed mass of charred flesh, the bleating and screams of terrified beasts and women alike bouncing off the gold-inlaid rafter of the king’s pavilion. Slowly and reverently, the royal priest approaches the brunt pyre one he has ascertained that it has ceased to smolder, and orders the burnt carcasses to be removed. Over the next few hours, these singed remains are pounded into a fine layer of ash that is mixed with water from the ocean. Then, as he chants sacred prayers, the priest pours the combination of water and ashes over his monarch, commanding the souls of the deceased to strike at any who would dare to harm the Ocean’s beloved son. This is an extremely potent ritual and is reserved solely for the king. So powerful it is that any assassin who attempts to get within five feet of the king finds his mind invaded by the agonized lament of the slain, begging him to abandon the atrocity he is intent on perpetuating, assuring him that should he ignore their warnings, they will afflict him with misery and torment for the reminder of his life. Any act of punishment inflicted on them by the priest for their failure to ward the king will be increased ten-fold as they repay the assassin in kind.
For all his power and grandeur though, a king among the Pan-Kor is only of value when he has demonstrated himself fit to rule. Only a benevolent, just monarch can ever hope to win the favor the ancestors and Shingoth, for the divine ones have no great love for any tyrant so lost in cruelty and decadence that he shames the sacred blood running through his veins. Any Pan-kor who forgets the ways of an honorable life handed down to him by his fathers, must expect swift and savage retribution from his ancestors, as that which holds true for the lowest of these people, must certainly apply with even greater strictness where their proud king is concerned. The priests have often warned the nobility and the common people that should a king lapse into the ways of self-indulgent and brutal viciousness, it is the task of his advisers and noble cousins to remonstrate with him to change his ways. But should he respond to their offers by choosing to have them imprisoned or even executed, it then becomes the imperative duty of everyone to topple the mad-man lest great Shingoth become so furious with the vessel harboring his brother, that he sends forth a mighty wave to drown the Pan-Kor. Terrible is the wrath of the ancestors and no Pan-Kor would wish to tempt that wrath by permitting a blood-thirsty tyrant to continue ruling over the noble Pan-Kor. Thus is the deposed tyrant promptly sacrificed, and his dismembered remains tossed into the sea, with the chanting priests begging Shingoth to take pity upon the ocean’s own progeny.
Since their birth, the women of the Pan-Kor are reared to become obedient and dutiful daughters, and with time, dutiful wives as well. Their mothers impress upon their young minds the importance of running a household well and providing for all the needs of the men-folk, whatever they are. It is strange then that despite all the exhortations that instill a sprit of demureness in them, the young girls and women of Pan-Kor are often encouraged to participate in vigorous physical sports that would be considered most outrageous for their counterparts dwelling in regions regarded as the most enlightened parts of Aqua. Such physical activity is condoned by the Pan-Kor village elders and head-men as a means of ensuring that their women grow up to be strong, healthy mothers that will bear robust offspring to pick up the spears and continue the nation’s proud martial traditions. Hence sports such as swimming and wrestling are often widely popular events, with monthly competitions held to celebrate them by the leading women of the villages. These are often, wild, lively events where the females are allowed to escape the strict demands of propriety for a little while, something which results in wild revels encouraged by locally brewed toddy.
Another striking peculiarity about he women of Pan-Kor is the fact that they are legally permitted to wed more than one man. Upon turning eighteen, a woman of Pan-Kor is usually given away in marriage to a man ten years her senior for it is deemed that a young woman needs an older, more mature man to keep her secure and free of trouble. Moreover, only the older men in a village are able to pay the bridal price of a new fishing canoe and gold jewelry to the young woman’s parents.
But should the newly-wed young woman begin to feel neglected by her older husband as he leaves on long fishing trips, she is permitted to become intimate with any young male relative of her husband whom she finds desirable. As long as she informs her husband of this liaisons, he has no cause for complaint or anger, seeing as how any child born from this other union will be of his own family rather than a stranger’s one. Besides, it would be considered selfish and rude of the elder not to share any of his possessions with the younger, and that includes his wife as well. The sharing of spouses is common among the Pan-Kor, with the result that the children of most families often regard their cousins as siblings which is indeed what they are, more often than not. The women that have married into the family, for their part often regard each other as sisters since they have all slept with the same men more than once.
Of Faith and the ones that rule over it
Pan-Kor belief revolves around the propitiation of the ancestor deities and the adhering to what is often known as the Code Of Righteousness. It is a philosophy that emphasizes loyalty to one’s clan and ancestors, generosity to the less fortunate, mercy to the weak, and ferocity to the enemy. Only by satisfying his ancestors he is worthy of joining in them their abode beneath the waves, can a man hope to be released from the eternal cycle of death and rebirth. This is the ultimate hope for every Pan-Kor who yearns to be more than mere mortals once the cycle of life is finished with them. Those that have satisfied the ancestors become minor deities in their own right, adding their great ancestors in the efforts to secure the future of the clan against adversity of any kind. On the other hand, failure to demonstrate worthy behavior is regarded as a straying away from the Code, and is often punished with a painful and humiliating rebirth. To be reborn as a woman or fish are some of the most terrible fates that can befall an errant Pan-Kor.
Presiding over this system of endless death and birth, are the priests. Every clan has a priest attached to its service. This is true from the fishing village to the royal palace. Born into their profession by birth, the priests of Pan-Kor claim descent from the magic wielding sea-mages that accompanied the great ancestors on their flight. Exclusively male for women are held in low esteem as mere child-bearers, they are revered for their mystical abilities which are believed to be innate, inherited from father to son. Capable of understanding as they do the cycles of the moon and the celestial dance of the stars, the priests are often called upon to decide the dates of auspicious events such as weddings or the rites of manhood. No coronation is complete without the blessings of the clan priest, and no funeral is over without his prayers to the ancestors to grant the soul of the deceased an after-life worthy of the one who now travels towards it, as the corpse laid to rest in a little coracle is pushed out towards the sea, awaiting the fog that will carry the deceased soul away to a location beneath the waves where it will face judgment before its ancestor. The priests are also master-smiths, forging spear-heads and knives for the warriors and chiefs on which they engrave sacred runes and patterns that are in truth, incantations granting the wielders of the weapons the protection of the ancestor deities. Much valued due to the link they share with the greater ancestors, these holy men are even given the paramount attribute of being able to influence the waters of the sea by pleading with the ancestor to make the waters calm and settled. It is also the daggers that they forge, that are hung up around the houses of the Pan-Kor to drive away wandering evil spirits and it is also to them that is granted the power to invoke potent mantras that can subdue the dark abominations which sometimes slither out the seas to prey upon the unwary.
It is perhaps for this reason they are feared by the common folk who dread the possibility of ever incurring the wrath of a priest. Even nobles quail before an affronted man of the gods. For but with an utter curse, he can condemn a haughty and ruthless noble to a future existence as a shark, a predator respected for its fearsome skill as a hunter, but also derided for its all consuming urge to devour anything in its path. Such an existence is considered a truly tragic fate, and any noble who would wish to avoid it would do well to moderate his conduct in the presence of the priest. Indeed, generous endowments to the priestly caste are often a good way of ensuring that one gets a favorable reincarnation in the next life and the favor of the ancestors in the current one.
The Unholy influence of Ma-O
Alas, this proud nation of great warriors has fallen prey to the dark influence the one known as Ma-O, the most hated being in the known world that exists beyond the dominion of the Pan-Kor. Well aware of the existence of this great kingdom where the influence both Ulmania and Jove do not reach, the hunted followers of Ma-O have settled, opening a humble sanctuary with the blessings of the reigning king and his priest who have been deceived into believing that Ma-o is merely a sea-divinity like the ones they worship. It is only a matter of time before the islands of the Pan-Kor become a strong-hold of sanctuary and power for Ma-O, for His followers have become wealthy and respected men among their unknowing hosts, sharing the secrets of their cannons and muskets with these warriors, and tempting them with their descriptions of the wealthy trading states that lie beyond the waters under their domination. Developing a close friendship with the priests whose sympathies they have appealed to as fellow worshipers of the ocean, they warn of the great menace known as Jove, whose worshipers have sworn to someday bring to hell all those who do not recognize his power. And so the Pan-kor have begun to brace themselves for an eventual conflict with the ones who worship the god called Jove. Plunder and trade beckon, and the nobles ready themselves to expand the sphere of the Pan-Kor