The Kitaluk (Acayan: Kitaluya) are the easternmost civilization in the known world, with dominions abutting Parthecan and Leunan colonies in the far east. Originating from across the Kitaluk Sea, they arrived in Parthe as early as 400 SR. Travelling in vessels with immense outriggers, they are uniquely suited for the open ocean -- such that no civilization other than they have managed to cross the Kitaluk Sea. Though the Kitaluk established significant trading depots in the Parthecan archipelago, contact has been mostly limited to trade in exotic goods: the Kitaluk are the sole purveyors of luxuries like sandalwood and sugarcane.
In the year 546 SR, the Kitaluk unilaterally restricted trade across their western colonies, insisting that it take place entirely without face-to-face contact between representatives. It has been rumored that this stems from a desire on the Kitaluk part to contain the outbreak of infectious disease. Nevertheless, a few Kitaluk have settled among Parthecan, Acayan , and Leunan society. The embargo was eventually lifted due to some crafty negotiation by these expatriates. Eventually, trade boomed once again during the Opening of the Gate . Rumor has it that the Kitaluk have defeated a major enemy and were able to redouble their merchantile pursuits with Parthe and the rest of the Far-Eastern world.
The Kitaluk civilization is probably the most far-ranging in the world, with outposts ranging from their heartland in the Land of Black Rocks (named for its characteristic basalt cliffs and breakwaters), as far southeast as the land of the Hlapal, who supply them with sugarcane, as far north as the Pawcheck and the Nlul, and as far west as Parthe on the edge of the Kitaluk Sea -- a region they call "Horizon's Rim". The one constant of their settlement patterns is that they tend to remain in areas isolated except by sea, with heavily fortified depots their only establishments on the mainland.
Originating in the narrow straits between the Land of the Black Rocks and the mainland, the Kitaluk started as a scattered culture of seafarers – they were essentially the ones who could connect community to community and island to mainland. The fractured geography of the region – basalt ridges interspersed with dark, dense woods – made for difficult travel by land, but the sea had no such problems.
From the very beginning, they proliferated rapidly, and in fact monopolized maritime traffic – peoples of other cultures who wanted to sail tended to join the Kitaluk rather than sail under their own aegis. The Kitaluk, led by their legendary founder Sahur, adopted his manifesto that “not all Kitaluk need be sailors, but all sailors are Kitaluk.” They became a haven for any and all who might want to live under their protection; they honored no lord and made decisions as a community; leaders were followed by consensus rather than fiat. Their only landward possessions tended to be scattered trading posts, enough for their vessels to find safe harbor and their families to survive. They (mostly) had no dreams of conquest, and as they carried wares without question, and none had the strength to oppose them on sea (indeed, none had the military strength to take their strongly fortified depots on land, either), no one dared to strike back at them. What could even hurt them?
In time, their trading network expanded across whole oceans – their outrigger-style catamarans could sail vast distances. Soon, they had spread across the spine of the Land of the Black Rocks, onto the tips of the nearby peninsulas, founding great cities at Sanya and Kwan (both geographically isolated except by sea), and eventually following the currents across the expanse of the western ocean. By the late fifth century SR, they had begun to trade with the foreign “Acayuk,” “Partan,” and “Lunuk.” The far eastern land of Hlanatal brought the strange wonder of cane sugar, the far north near the Nlul, timber, furs, and hides.
In short, the Kitaluk became keepers of the crossroads of the world. Their two greatest cities grew rapidly. The secluded harbor of Kwan acted as a departure point for all routes north and west, in addition to serving the entirety of the western side of their region. Sanya, situated at the end of a broken peninsula so full of daunting cliffs and clefts that it was almost inaccessible by land, grew into a cultural center. It became the largest city in the east, full of merchants and artisans, scientists and artists, raising a hundred temples to different gods and dozens of monuments to their heroes – few of whom were warriors.
Even so, the great distances covered by Kitaluk navigators meant that communication had become nearly impossible, at least on a sensible time-scale. It could take a year for news from the colonies near Parth to reach those near Hlanatal, and anyone who wanted to participate in the principal decision making apparatus of the society – the ship council by the Land of Black Rocks – would have to travel there. Fracturing seemed inevitable.
Landward Engagements Edit
A more imminent threat to their existence emerged on the mainland, where the Kiptuk, the largest and most powerful of the non-Kitaluk powers in the region, had maintained a period of sustained expansion dating back to the early 6th century SR. After conquering their neighbors in Twar and driving the Lwuk and Chatl people from the area, their megalomaniac war-chief Ganahaw had decided the Kitaluk outposts near his kingdom were too urgent a threat, and the Kitaluk's monopoly on sea travel too unbearable to continue. He besieged their outposts and laid the hulls for a fleet of his own.
The first decisive battle would occur in 598 SR, when a Kitaluk war fleet set fire to the construction site, and utterly devastated the Kiptuk's attempts to go to sea. A second fleet would be constructed far inland in secret, with the intention of bringing it overland to the coast, but it would not be completed in time to have a real impact on the war.
Instead, in 604, the Kitaluk's diplomatic efforts paid off: they had assembled, financed, and supplied an enormous array of armies, from the previous enemies of the Kiptuk as well as the distant chiefdom of Katch. The invasion smashed a Kiptuk army under Ganahaw's direct command, and the chief was killed in battle. His followers would continue fighting for almost a decade more, but they had little chance of success; almost the entire region had joined the alliance by now.
The Kiptuk empire sublimated into nonexistence, with their remaining peoples swearing subservience to the Katch, and the greater portion of their lands being returned to the Lwuk and Chatl. Most unnervingly, perhaps, was that the Kitaluk themselves took over the stewardship of several minor port cities; while they were not far from the Kitaluk's traditional domain, the ocean peoples had never actively conquered a land.
Power Plays Edit
But the elimination of the largest threat the Kitaluk had known simply ignited the internal divisions that had quietly grown for years. Even excepting the communication difficulties, some among the Kitaluk began to regard their stance of rejecting inland empires as antiquated – and pushed to annex what remained of the Kiptuk, as well as the other peoples on the Land of the Black Rocks. One of them, Hainak, gained the support of a group of other captains, and hired an army of mercenaries from the north in 629 SR, with the intention of conquering Atlatuk and increasing his own power in the Kitaluk circles.
He soon found himself fighting not only the Atlatuk, but also a rival Kitaluk named Chadawan, one who might have harbored dreams of conquest as well, but seized the opportunity to appear as the conciliator. Chadawan organized a Kitaluk expedition of his own, and secured the aid of Sur and Motluk to fight Hainak's expedition in the northwestern half of the island.
Kitaluk government was handled exclusively by the captains of their ships. This idea dated back to the earliest times of the culture, where any person with a ship could simply depart further down the coast to avoid harassment. With total freedom, government was voluntary, and the decisions of the ship-council were always non-binding – at least, for ship captains. Therefore, almost all of the laws of the council would be quite basic: criminalizing certain obvious activities, and making broad decisions of who to open or close trade with.
With the gradual fragmentation of the culture across the vast distances it covered after the 5th century SR, local regions held their own ship-councils, though these were always nominally subordinate to the principal one by the Land of the Black Rocks.
Many have cast the Kitaluk as a utopian society, but this was not so. Non-captains were completely disenfranchised, owing to their low economic and social status – this group included common sailors. While most could easily leave to another ship, or had the option of captaining a ship of their own, either of these options could prove difficult. The land-bound population of artisans and farmers, where they existed, had practically no say in the Kitaluk government, though they also felt only the lightest hands of their rule anyway.
Society and Culture Edit
Though typically painted as a utopian, inclusive society by the Kitaluk themselves, their civilization in fact harbored many of the same inequities that pervaded the societies they tended to criticize. An enormous gulf of wealth and power between those who captained ships and those who did not was often nearly impossible to bridge without the help of an existing captain. Women had a reduced role compared to the nearby mainland civilizations -- in the Katch, Lwuk, and Chatl, women often served as chiefs, whereas in the Kitaluk, most were confined to one outpost or another.
The Kitaluk can be counted among the most inclusive societies in the world – so long as one could sail a boat, they would be accepted. The oft-repeated maxim, “Not all Kitaluk need be sailors, but all sailors are Kitaluk,” extended to every people they encountered. By the 7th century SR, Kitaluk sailors hailed from every nation in their homeland, but also from Parthe, Acaya, Hlanatal, and Nlul. Members from these peoples could and did rise quite high in the Kitaluk hierarchy. At the same time, intermarriage occurred on practically every edge of the explored world, and their descendants created vital contacts across the divide between both societies.
Women occupied a rather low position in the region's society. They did not, typically, sail, nor did they lead any bands of warriors. As such, they were usually confined to the land, and had little say in political matters.
Traditional faiths predominated in the region, typically one form or another of Animism or Polytheism. Owing to their cosmopolitan origins, Kitaluk usually followed a number of different belief systems. More recently, Aitahist missionaries visited the region on occasion, but earned only a few converts.