The Culture of the Salvagardians is rich and varied, with layers of interaction between the people and the nobles that many outsiders would not understand. On some occasions there is a strict hierarchy in place, even among the average citizens, which is usually followed in times of war or whilst on the hunt. At other times there is almost total equality, and everyone, regardless of their standing is given a fair say, which usually surfaces during arguments and disagreements, or when trade agreements are being negotiated. There is also no gender bias in Salvagard, with both sexes expected to do the work, hunt for food and raise the children in equal measure.
Hunting is a major aspect of life and culture in Salvagard, as first and foremost every citizen of the realm will consider themselves hunters, and depending on their hunting skill a person may gain or lose status within the community. Many of the Heroes of Salvagardian legend were hunters, killing legendary beasts with guile and skill as opposed to the outright fighting prowess that features in human tales.
The people of Salvagard have never developed bowery technology. However, the spear is widely used, and has been honed over many years into a hunting weapon that is unparallel in the kingdom. Hunting as a wolf is also common, although this is rare if the food is to be returned to community, as it is far less sanitary killing by tearing with jaws then the quick thrust of a spear.
Hunting is such an important aspect of Salvagard that the spear has come to be the realms symbol, and is even used on the heraldry of the royal house. It is rare to find a Salvagardian family that does not own a hereditary spear, and those who don’t are usually in the process of procuring a new one. Any Salvagardian who commits a serious offence can have their families spear stripped from them, which is then broken and thrown in a river, a symbol of their dishonour.
*The Trial of Ascension
The Trial is a test undertaken by every Salvagardian child in their 18th year, regardless of their standing. They are assembled before their community leader, be it the village headman or the king himself. They will then be assigned the task of hunting a specific animal and presenting it to the leader as an offering and proof that they are ready to become an adult. For most it will merely be a boar or bear, something uncommon enough to show particular skill in tracking it down. However, for more skilled young hunters the task could be far harder, hunting monsters like the illusive Salamander or the barbaric Ice Troll. For those of singular skill they are sent to the Capital, and given a task by the king himself, to hunt the rare and immensely dangerous Snow Giant. To be given this task is a rare honour, and has only been issued once in living memory.
The Trial lasts as long as it takes for the aspirant to hunt and kill the beast, although after 6 months most will return with their kill, as any longer would not be a test of skill, only endurance. If the aspirant is unable to find and kill their assigned animal they will be forced to return to their community. It is a shameful act, but sometimes necessary to preserve their lives, especially in harsh winter conditions.
If this occurs the failed Aspirant must spend a year in the community doing the most menial and dangerous tasks until their next year, when they will be given the chance to attempt the trail again. This time they either return victorious, or not at all.
*The Trial of the Heir
This is a task like no other in Salvagardian Society and only undertaken by the potential heirs to the throne on the King’s order. It holds huge risk for the aspirants, and yet has been a staple tradition of the Kings court since the death of the Prophet Salvagard 1800 years ago.
When the king is ready, usually when he has sired a substantial number of children, he will call together all of his sons and daughters, announcing to them that he wishes for the trial to commence and any who whish to undertake the trail must volunteer. It is usual that many do, however, it is also usual that few survive this gruelling.
The task is relatively straightforward. The aspirants must race one another north, past the Ice Wall and into the frozen Northern Expanse. Once there they must continue to travel north until they reach the Roof of the World, an icy plateau that is meant to be in sight of Vorgend, home of the Gods. There they will find the Pool of Life, a hole in the ice in which sits a basin of red water, similar to the one found by the Prophet Salvagard in the Cave of Life. Once there the aspirants will drink from the waters, collect some of the liquid to prove their achievement, and then pour a drop of their own blood into the pool as an offering to the Gods. Once this is done they must the return to Salvagard via the same treacherous route. The first one to return is named heir apparent, with the others who come later becoming next in line to the throne depending on the order they arrive back in.
The trip is fraught with danger, for to make this journey the aspirants must pass through lands full of Icemen, strange monsters seen by few others and bitter weather in order to reach their goal. Regardless of the training, it is almost certain that 90% of all those who venture north will die there. It is for this reason that the trial is usually held off until the King’s heirs have reached an age where they are most likely to survive the journey, as if they were too young they would not yet have the skills necessary to complete the journey in one piece.
The native language of Salvagard is known as Varden, but they now are able to speak the Human tongue to some degree after recent exposure to their language at the hands of the former prisoners and traders who enter the kingdom through Prophets Pass.
*The Death Hymn
A popular part of Salvagardian culture, it is common practice to sing the death hymn of one who is about to die or has recently died. The hymn is a common one, and is a prayer to the Twelve Gods to grant them a good death and to be granted admittance to the Hall of Ancestors, to sit amongst their long dead kin to feast and hunt for all eternity. When going into Battle soldiers will sing their death hymn aloud loud for all to hear as a precaution in case they fall in the coming battle, and is also used as a method of unnerving the enemy, especially when so few soldiers are able to hold a tune.
Since ale was first brewed in the north it has been a tradition amongst all Salvagardians to drink as much of it as possible prior to death. It is traditionally served ice cold in large tankards, and comes in hundreds of varieties depending on the local recipe. It is a very small settlement indeed that does not have a drinking establishment, although most citizens of the Kingdom know enough to brew their own ale in an emergency, although this concoction tends to explode, and is usually known as ‘Sunshine’.
"You don't have to be mad here, but it helps."