The tengu share similarities with the merfolk of Syrenia in that they lived on the continent known as Valea long before the Diaspora and the sinking of Skos and Naduum. They claim to be the descendants of creatures who ruled the skies. It has been 50,000 years since they left the skies, cursed by the gods or the giants (the stories differ). In those millennia, they have passed from nation to nation, area to area. Most recently a collection of tengu, a group of the Chiba tribe, have settled on the eastern landmass of Valea.
The Chibajin lived for some time in Naduum, having migrated there to live in the cities, before the Diaspora. After the Diaspora they lived in Tigraen as scholars and rogues. Many of them were used as recon troops in the crusades against Sarmatti. There is rumor among the nations that tengu wizards were among those who created the rune giants for Tigraen. The Chibajin will neither confirm nor deny whether they were involved.
The Chibajin spent some time in the Usurper Kingdoms, working for various groups as assassins, spies, scholars and weapon trainers. They wandered from kingdom to kingdom, as a group, wherever they were needed or wanted. They spent the majority of their time in the Usurper Kingdoms in the areas that are now parts of Sennan and Kel. Because of the unstable nature of the kingdoms, the Chibajin moved on once again. Some roosts of tengu stayed, as some had stayed in Tigraen, but the Chibajin had developed a desire for their own roost.
The Chibajin were led at the time by a philosopher-warrior known as Kokito the Black. He was fluent in dozens of languages, well versed on poetry, religion, history, the cosmos and arcane practices and more than competent with the use of almost any blade. Kokito led his people to the crags of the mountains to the west of Takn and settled there. In 251 PN, the Chibajin broke ground on the first city solely home to the Chibajin, Makaba.
Much of the land is rocky and grass is rare. Darkwood trees knot the moutainsides. The most notable terrain in Chibashu has to be the volcanic features. Two active and dozens of extinct volcanoes fill the mountains between Chibashu and Takn. Below the mountains, hot spots supply energy to fields of geysers and sulfurous pools. Hot springs form boiling rivers that meet with snowmelt steams in the mountains. Clouds of steam fill the skies when it's not raining, which is less often than would be expected. Herds of herbivorous megafauna eat what little vegetation survives in the harsh environment.
Seasons are almost indistinguishable in Chibashu. All are rather cold and wet. When it is spring in the neighboring nations, the rain tends to increase slightly. In winter, occasionally the rain turns to sleet. Summer is known for dense fog while autumn is known for the lightest weather. However, seasons are generally tracked by the megaloceros herds. Autumn is mating season, spring time for weaning. Winter is for hibernation and summer is when the herds run. Despite the supernaturally stable and dreary seasons, the great elk herds seem to still know how to maintain their cycles. To a lesser extent, these same cycles are tracked by the movements of the winter wolves and cave bears that prowl the mountains.
The common folk aren't much different in Chibashu than they are in the rest of the former Tigraen peoples. They scratch out a living from the rocks around them and try to take as much advantage of their position as possible without exposing themselves unduly.
The tengu tend to wear very drab clothing, mainly browns, blacks, muddy reds and dingy whites. Leather jerkins and pants are typical attire for males and females, with linen shirts replacing the jerkin in warmer months. All Chibajin carry with them some sort of blade, even if they are not a part of the rogue or assassin guilds. The region is atypically wet and cold, so long leather coats are commonly worn to fight the damp chill.
There isn't really a Chabago nobility, but the merchant guilds tend to hold a similar position. Affluence tends to determine power, and the most affluent tend to run the various guilds. They tend to wear very similar clothing to the common class, but usually of a finer quality or fashioned with embroidery or burnishings.
By and large every citizen of Chibashu is a member of some sort of guild or order. Businesses tend to not survive if they try to freelance their work. Guilds control all of the trade, agriculture and manufacture in and around each city. Larger guilds control certain aspects of multiple cities, or multiple aspects of the same city. Agriculture revolves mostly around herding the megafauna that subsist in the area, with mageloceros being the most common, though some of those in the plains are able to farm some tubers and legumes. Other major guilds include apothecaries, armorers, blacksmiths, cordwainers, goldsmiths, masons, mercers, scriveners and weavers. Some cities have very specialized guilds, usually thieves guilds or assassin guilds, and every city generally has multiple mercenary guilds.
The Chibajin revere the herds of king stags or the packs of winter wolves or cave bears in the same way that many other cultures revere the lunar cycles or the passing of the seasons. Elk, wolf and bear symbols are very common among these avian people. Common names for both businesses and people relate to these animals. Kokito, one of the more popular male names, is a mutation of the Black Valean word for the antlers of a great stag. One of the most popular female names, Yokuna, refers to a mother wolf who has raised many fearsome pups.
The common tongue of Chibashu is Black Valean, though "common" is something of a misnomer. Nearly every Chibajin is fluent in four or more languages. Most commonly these are High and Black Valean, Elvish, Gnomish, Giant or an elemental language. There is almost no language that is unknown in Chibashu.
For a people most known to the outside world for their scholarship and skill with blades, the Chibajin have a very healthy respect for nature. The primary goddess is Seiba, with many followers of Ianadale and the Elementals. Their reverence for nature is also direct, with many cities worshiping ancient "spirit trees" or holy sulfur vents. The leaders of herds of megaloceros are often seen as spirit guides.
Temples are very uncommon in Chibashu, though shrines are ubiquitous. Shrines can be as simple as a pile of stones that increase in size from top to bottom or as complex as large spirit houses with multiple rooms, gilded and jeweled. The material value of the site has very little to do with the importance of the shrine and more to do with the importance of the one who commissioned the holy site. Wealthy guilds or merchants invest thousands of gold into a shrine to prove their wealth while the sites of annual pilgrimages are often little more than a few crossed sticks and a stack of stones.
Spirit shamans are the most common religious leaders, revealing the mysteries of nature to those whose spirits are in tune with the natural world. Unlike many others nature cultures, the majority of Chibajin live in cities and so the majority of the shamans dwell there as well. Over the centuries, these shamans have adapted their teachings and their magic around the urban lifestyle of the tengu.
Kinkinru, an ancient shaman who dwelt in the region prior to the arrival of Kokito, is considered the equal of the great philosopher-warrior. Where Kokito brought the people to their own roost and taught them the way of both the sword and the scroll, Kinkinru taught the Chibajin the way of nature. Kinkinru is the spiritual father of all of the Chibago religions. The heirophants of the various nature cults are expected to make a pilgrimage to Kinkinru's shrine at least once during the leadership of their grove.
There is no formal government in Chibashu. When Kokito established the first roost, he was looked to as something of a governor, a position he had little desire to fulfill. His love was of literature and swordplay. Important and influential figures began to arise from the population filling niches when they were discovered. These figures formed something of a loose council, along with Kokito, to determine the direction of the people, but most of the decisions for the commoners were left to settle among themselves. Upon Kokito's death in 238 PN, the first stages of the guilds had already been set up in Makaba and these guilds were looked to for guidance.
The prominence of the guilds vary from city to city and from year to year, but always it is the guilds who determine policy for the Chibajin. Because there is no formal government in Chibashu, there can be no formal treaties with the Chibajin. Trade agreements, protection agreements and work contracts can be made with the various guilds and, very occasionally, with whole cities but not with the whole nation. The Chibajin prize their independence too much anyway to sign it away on parchment.
Within the cities, guilds have control over policy only within their own members, but as nearly every citizen is a member of one guild or another. In fact, the population of Chibashu is tabulated by counting the roll of guild rosters. Guilds determine their own membership based on their own internal rules. This means what is legal for one citizen might not be legal for another. Because of the very diverse levels of legality, there is no unified enforcement agency but rather is enforced by guilds on a piecemeal basis. There is only one universal law in Chibashu, established by Kokito on his deathbed. It is simply known as The Rule.
The Rule, established by Kokito the Black on his deathbed states: "The Chibajin are to be a people open to all. Where we have been taken in by many peoples while we searched for our home, so too will we be a safe harbor for migrants. Bear no aggression or ill will against them, do not defraud them but protect and house them as others have done for us."
Interpretation of this final wish differs, but the uniform interpretations create many protective provisions for non-guild members. Guild members are often given special treatment within their guild, but foreigners are not barred from accessing the goods and services of the various guilds. Travelers and emigrants will always be afforded a room at a reasonable price. Violence is all but absent in the cities, where guild eyes are present, and the Chibajin tend to show respect for any in their cities. Violence between foreigners is also not tolerated and, if any occurs, the offending party is usually expelled from the city or barred access to guild products.
Because of The Rule, Chibashu has become something of a haven amidst the cruel peoples of Valea and trade flourishes here. However, not all inside Chibago territory abide by The Rule, and banditry along the roads is common since the high merchant traffic attracts those looking to raid and steal to make a living.
Friends and Enemies:
Because of the very decentralized system of power in Chibashu, Chibashu has no formal allies or enemies. Many of the neighboring nations, Tigraen, Nasvargr, Klaamoor, Sennan and others, use the roosts in Chibashu as a way around trade agreements with each other. Merchants from two nations who might actively be at war will meet in Chibashu to trade goods, or to buy goods from a common source. Merchants from all over Valea can be found in the Chibago cities.
The only real enemy of Chibashu is Sarmatti, but even they are not enemies on a practical level. Sarmattians tend to not trust the tengu because they are former citizens of Tigraen that fought against Sarmatti in the crusades. Despite this distrust, it is not unheard of to see Sarmattian merchants in Chibago markets.
There has never been a war in Chibago territory as long as the Chibajin have dwelt there. Occasionally, the armies of Tigraen or Sarmatti (or another power) will march through Chibashu on their way to make war with another nation. While marching through, however, most of the armies treat the Chibajin relatively well. Because of the official Chibago policy of armed pacifism, there is no standing military. Some of the paramilitary guilds, however, keep standing groups of armed warriors. The armorers, weaponsmiths and various thieves guilds all typically keep what would amount to a civic defense corp. Many of the other guilds also hire protection forces to defend their caravans as they travel the bandit filled roads.
Despite the fact that there is no official army, Chibashu is not defenseless. Nearly every citizen spends time studying the art and philosophy of the sword. If it ever became necessary every Chibajin is capable of defending themselves. Most have access to their own preferred blade and are more than competent enough to wield it. There are also dozens of monasteries who pursue physical perfection through weapon training as a form of meditation. Should the need arise, those guilds are prepared to defend the flock with their lives.
The Chibajin are a highly magical people. They focus much of their studies on both the arcane and natural magics. Their role in the various arcane discoveries while they were citizens of Tigraen are as diverse as they are clandestine. Many suspect they they were the masterminds behind the creation of the rune giants, though it remains as speculation. The Chibajin love the study of arcane texts however, and many do not shy away from magics that are considered taboo or forbidden in other cultures. Many of the most selective guilds in Chibashu are mage guilds, which function in a capacity similar to wizard's colleges in other parts of the world. In addition to arcane studies, commune with nature results in many tengu who have tapped into the primal power of the earth. Shamanistic traditions and a high occurrence of supernatural phenomena in the surrounding mountains and rocky steppes have lead to a people who greatly revere the power of the natural world.
However common magic is to be believed and understood, it is strangely absent in the everyday workings of Chibago society. Most work is done by hand and only minimal amounts of magic are used to herd the great elk or scratch out food plots in the rough soil. Some magic is harnessed to enhance weapons and armor, but most of that is done by excellent smiths rather than wizards or druids, and it is still not common as the need simply isn't present. Minor magical baubles and curiosities may find their way around the markets and often foreign merchants will attempt to peddle wondrous wares, but by and large magic is left to the shaman's groves and the academic's halls.
Settlements are often called "aeries", "roosts" and "nests" instead of "cities", "towns" and "villages". The placement of cities often is based on trade, some are close to particular pilgrimage sites or active volcanic features (vents, geysers, sulfur pools, hot spring, etc.). There are decent roads between them. Most villages connect with the megaloceros (giant elk, king stag) though some with the winter wolf and others with the cave bear. There are four full aeries, six or so roosts and plenty of nests dotting the landscape with a total of about a half million tengu.
The vast majority of the guild roles are populated by tengu. There are a small minority of tieflings, elves, humans and orcs. If the race is represented on Valea and those people have an interest in mercantilism, at least one representative can be found in Chibashu.
Adventuring is uncommon, largely due to the reliance on being in a guild and due to the general nature of non-violence of the people. Those that do adventure are commonly members of a guild of thieves or assassins, monks who have been sent off to pursue their perfection, druids on spirit quests, or those deposed from their guilds. For those that do not adventure, druids, wizards, monks and thieves are the most common, with a strong collective of barbarians who live in the mountains.