This has been a pet project of mine and I would like to share some of the lore in total, rather than as a scattered handful of snippets fed in drips and drabs via delegates to Spinesreach; it doesn't seem very fair to restrict this information to a single city, and it may be interesting to see how much work goes into a large-scale project like an entire species. I also hope that it will be useful for the handful of people who play Grecht characters but found Arget Massai and Arget Efri to be lacking in content and information on the Grecht people. If you have any questions, please feel free to post them, but remember: spoilers are the enemy.
As a guide for using this information IC, anything in here would be known to a Grecht of the Plateau. A mainland-born Grecht raised amongst the refugees at Massai would know the vague details, but probably not be up to speed on any of the more recent happenings of the Plateau or the fine detail of living there. The average non-Grecht would know very little as travel to and from the Plateau is heavily restricted.The Dehkay Plateau
A large area of land to the northeast of Sapience, straddling the border between Albedi and Sapient territory. The Plateau is the homeland of the Dehkay Grecht, spurned cousins to the Grecht of Massai, and covers hundreds of kilometers with icy tundra, sky-scraping volcanic mountains, and glaciers. The Second Imperium is just the latest iteration of one of the oldest cultures in the world.Concept workGovernment
Over the course of the last milennia, the Plateau leadership has been almost as fractured as the islands around it. Only in the last few hundred years has a stable government emerged, originally in the form of the bloody military dictatorship called Tolvhauk, or the First Imperium, and more recently in the more subtle form of the religiously oppressive and money-hungry Naru Vhauk, the Second Imperium. The Plateau is currently nominally ruled by a figurehead Exarch elected by a council of Talons, who are in turn representatives of military and merchant bodies across the Plateau. The position of Exarch is one of religious significance, as they are the intercessor between the common people of the Plateau and the Spirit of the earth beneath it - at least in theory. In practice, the priesthood is an entirely separate body of power to the Imperium government, and is largely helpless to prevent the powerful military might of the Talon Council from doing and saying whatever they please. The modern Talon Council is composed almost entirely of military leaders with a small handful of members of the priesthood, in part due to the coup that resulted in the formation of the current Imperium. The Talon Council also traditionally includes the Bearer of the Hundred Dead, the sole legitimate practitioner of Sun Drinker worship on the Plateau (see 'religion').Geography
The Second Imperium has pursued a policy of aggressive internal unification, crushing dissent with military force and using the religious beliefs of the peasant and merchant classes, many of them based in objective fact, as threats. The Bearer of the Hundred Dead is actively employed as an enforcer and weapon by the Talon Council, a policy that is unprecedented in the history of the Grecht and may have serious ramifications further down the track if it continues. Historically this combination of military and religious power is unusual, and is a major part of why the Second Imperium remains stable despite serious unrest in the peasant population. The Second Imperium has accomplished a great deal and has turned the Plateau into a unified and productive body, but at the cost of hosting a ruling class that conducts ethnic cleansing, uses religion as a weapon against the peasants, and crushes uprising with brutal force.
As a note on the naming of Grecht cities, Arget means 'fortress' and traditionally referred to a large settlement built in the caldera of a volcano, but now refers to any constructed settlement. Places like the Ebon Basin, which is a sparsely settled volcanic lake, are not an Arget because they lack infrastructure and large-scale settlement.Religion
The Plateau is broken into three main regions: the Cradle of Fire in the far north, the Dehkay Basin in the inner area, and the Daughters to the far south. The Cradle was the landing point for the first Grecht to reach the Plateau and is a desolate, blasted hellhole of a region, ringed by active volcanoes and constantly pelted with rains of ash. Farming is easy enough on a small scale but it wasn't until the Basin was settled that grain and vegetables became widely available to the majority of people on the Plateau. The Cradle is home to Neicel Arget, the religious and siritual capitol of the Plateau, and it is from here that the Exarch and the Talon Council administrate the Plateau as a whole.
The Basin, overseen by the city of Arget Tep, is the breadbasket of the Plateau. Historically an extremely war-torn and contested area due to the lack of widely usable farmland elsewhere on the Plateau, Tep has only relatively recently become a stable state with the advent of a powerful merchant cabal that leverages vast amounts of money and trade goods to stave off feuds. So far they have succeeded in keeping the Basin in one piece for almost a century, which is unprecedented. That said, their independence has come at the cost of a light military presence on the roads of the Basin, resulting in bandit activity, lost caravans, and numerous rebel encampments scattered about the tundra.
The Daughters are one of the more desolate regions of the Plateau. They are a series of glaciers that endlessly calve into the Great Ocean between the Plateau and the mainland, and were largely unpopulated before the rise of the Second Imperium. Now they are home to a military garrison at Kemau and a large population of outcasts, lepers and political dissidents who have been left to rot in the barren wasteland near Liek. The Daughters are geographically the closest Plateau region to Sapience, and can be seen from the coast of the Northern Tundra on a clear day.
For many years, religion on the Plateau was a quite simple and personal affair. Gods and spirits would vary in name, appearance and nature from settlement to settlement or family to family, with many larger clans carrying their gods with them in the form of symbolic altars or the bones of their dead. Ritual cannibalism is traditionally a very common part of Grecht peasant culture, both because of the harshness of necessity when living in an icy wasteland, and the cultural understanding that the strength of the dead should remain with their family. This has changed, or rather been changed quite violently, by the Second Imperium, which has put a great deal of effort into crushing the traditional religious culture of the Plateau and instituting mandatory worship of the Spirit, Halfat Naru, in its place. In this respect the Plateau is officially monotheistic, supporting a priesthood of non-Ivolnite, non-vampiric undead who are bound to the Spirit and are effectively immortal. The Spirit, or Mountain Sleeping, is depicted as a bright fire burning beneath the earth, or as the sun, depending on region.Notes on culture
A heavily restricted, heavily illegal counterpoint religious observance to the Halfat Naru priesthood is the cult of the Sun Drinker, also known as Sky Dreaming, who conducts sacrifices on the oceanic cliffs to beg the Heart of Winter to turn her gaze away from them. The Sun Drinker is depicted as a vast draconic figure, or symbolized with a broken wyrm's tooth as needed. Being found to conduct worship of the Sun Drinker if you are not the Bearer of the Hundred Dead is punishable with ritual drowning in the Ebon Basin as a sacrifice to the Spirit of the Plateau.
A caste structure exists on the Plateau, and has informally for many years. The Second Imperium has elevanted it to a 'holy order' and uses it as a means of enforcing restrictions on travel, inheritance, rights and representation. The castes are divided into the teac, or peasant class, the nel, or warrior caste and military, and the neicel, the priesthood. A 'fourth caste' or 'bought caste' in the form of the merchant princes of Tep also exists, but technically falls under the teac as far as the Plateau government is concerned.Language and Writing
The practice of marking one's face with bright pigment arose on the Plateau as a method of identifying members of your clan in the near-darkness of tundral night or deep caves during the fractious early period of Grecht settlement. In modern times, it has fallen out of favour with many of the lower and middle class due to the relative expense of pigments and the extra time taken to apply the complex markings each day, but nobility, the priesthood, and many masters of trades who wish to appear cultured and refined will apply markings each day, with colour and patterns denoting their position, the nature of their work, and their familial bloodlines. Some of the pigment colours and their meanings are:
Red: religious leadership.
Orange: religious acolyte.
Maroon: military stock.
Teal: peasant stock.
Bronze: merchant family.
White: bound to Halfat Naru; undying; marked for sacrifice.
Black: alchemist or sorcerer; geomancer.
Green: medicine mixer; healer.
Creatures called Taerilans are very common on (and until recently endemic to) the Plateau. They have accompanied the Grecht throughout their entire development as a civilization, appear in all of the oldest and most respected stories and myths, and have recieved non-specific 'holy' status because of this; blood, bone, feathers and hide of Taerilans are used for the best ceremonial equipment, and the taerilan-mounted dragoons of the Plateau nel are an example of some of the finest cavalry in the world.
Credit for the following section goes entire to Ignotum, who is essentially amazing.
An overview of differences between High Grecht (Grecht Galeb), Common Grecht (Grecht Teakeb), and Flatland Grecht (Grecht Abdaleb)
High Grecht, unlike the other two varietes of Grecht, has been preserved relatively unchanged by the undying priesthood; before the influence of the Ankyreans and Kalsu, Grecht was a language that required the extensive declination of nouns to serve grammatical functions. This dialect is quite archaic; even the warrior caste largely speaks Common Grecht. High Grecht features grammatical quirks that have been lost in the language's more modern varieties.
Common Grecht sees distinct influence from Kalsu; many of the sounds in the language were taken from flatland speakers, lending this dialect a much wider range of sounds by comparison to the conservative High Grecht. The default grammar of the language shifted to closer resemble the Ankyrean tongue, and many loanwords for things and creatures exclusively in the domain of the flatlands passed into the Grecht tongue.
Flatland Grecht, the furthest-flung branch of the Grecht family of languages, spoken in places like Massai, takes many cues from the southern Common tongue; in addition to a forward shift of many Grecht vowels, the grammar and the consonants have solidified into a form in closer resemblance of many Sapient tongues. Mutual intelligibility with the continental Grecht is still possible, but the adoption of various southern idioms into flatland Grecht presents difficulty in figurative translations.
A full pastebin of the technical details of the language can be found here
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed it!