The Sea of Stars
A Travelers Guide to Kali
A Travelers Guide to Kali
By Wrentis Lorn, Record keeper of Arcadia
Kali (officially known as Kalimadu) is a predominantly ocean covered shard in the 13 Kingdoms. By size it is one of the largest shards however the population does not reflect that due to the sparse land mass, with roughly one fifth of the shard islands and the rest salt water. The largest tribe (and the tribe recognized by Star Tower) is the tribe of Kali, comprised of over 100 different families each with around 100 people. Many of these tribes speak variations upon the dialect of Kali, though the further one gets from the central island the longer the translation process takes due to colloquialisms and phrases that are unique to each tribe. Ever since the Astral wars, Kali has been used as a base of operations by various armies, as well as a source of natural resources such as wood for building, stone for weapons and an abundance of food for supplying armies. Many of these occupancies have had a cultural impact on the Kalinese way of life, affecting their religion, farming practices and languages.
The History of Kali is difficult to accurately determine. It seems many volcanoes, tidal waves and civil wars have almost fully wiped out the population of Kali numerous times. Since only oral histories are kept the truth of these matters is hard to determine, so I refer to Buana the Literate’s historical account of migration and Kali’s part in the Astral, Draconic, Demonic and Gith wars. While these accounts of Kali history of War reflect Star Tower records I encourage the reader to ignore any events from pre 640 BKE. Before this Kali had not made diplomatic contact with Star Tower and Buana’s account is unsubstantiated and based off speculation not fact.
Buana’s history also focusses heavily on the archeological findings while simultaneously ignore the effect that the other shards occupancy had on Kali. There have been some minor, and major cultural influences by the other Kingdoms on Kali ever since the Astral Wars where it was used as an outpost. First and most importantly the soldiers of Arcadia, many of whom were farmers, introduced Kali hunter gatherers to farms. They showed them how to create rice paddies which now form a key part of the Kali diet and have allowed further expansion by the tribes.
Secondly, after the Dragon tyrants attacked Kali, Biran Rangers came to their defense. Seeing the efficacy of the Rangers many Kali tribesmen and women desired to learn how to use the bow and arrow as the spear proved very ineffective against the Dragons. The Rangers obliged and trained groups of tribespeople and in the process introduced them to their deity, the Wild Hunt, or the spirit of the hunt. These tribesmen that were trained some 50 years ago still pass on their training and heritage to their children and these archers have been seen to defend Kali very successfully against Madu invasion.
The last major influence that the Astral wars had on Kali was the Orzhova outpost on Kali unintentionally introduced the rat. An animal native to the streets of Orzhova but that spread disease and filth in the islands of Kali where the Orzhovan army was stationed. This plague wiped out three tribes that shared the islands and have since been quarantined by the Kali, people are warned that if they go near they cannot return. Little is known about who inhabits the islands now as no one has returned from them in over 20 years. However it is assumed they are uninhabited.
Government and Politics:
Government on Kalimadu mostly revolves around familial tribal structures. Many islands are comprised entirely of a single tribe, usually no more than 100 individuals; however there are much larger islands that house up to 30 or 40 of these smaller tribes. The island of Kali being the perfect example of this, it is the seat of power of the Kali tribe, which spans the entire island. The tribe leader (or Kepala) Mawar Kali oversees conflict between the tribes, more marriages and will treat with most visitors from other shard. Under this Kepala or Chief, there are various Sihat (closest translation is a councilor) who advise the Chief on various issues. At least one of these Sihat can speak Zhentish, this Sihat usually acts as the diplomat or translator. Often there is a military Sihat who determines where the tribes send their warriors. Unlike on more civilized shards the other subgroups within the Kali tribe are not strictly speaking bound by the decisions of Mawar, each tribe is responsible for themselves, however there seems to be high respect given to Mawar and the other Sihats so they are generally adhered to. Once in my time here a tribe ignored Mawar’s summons to provide rice and fish to another tribe who had been attacked. They refused but were given no punishment, then a month later they were attacked by the Madu, requested help and were ignored. Their island was pillaged and their tribe mostly captured or killed.
Finally the Sihat with the most influence after the Kepala is the religious Sihat. They are in charge of religious rites, ceremonies, sacrifices and often determining when is the best time to start a harvest, go hunting, go to war etc.
Some of the island tribes that are part of the Kali tribe are: Kalimantan, Riau, Sumatra, Bengkulu and Banten
Some of the external tribes that the locals have mentioned but I have not been given permission to visit are the: Tenggara, Nusa, Sulawest, Maluku and Aceh
Kali has 3 representatives in the Star Tower. These representatives, I have learned, volunteered to go as it was seen as some sort of punishment to be taken from Kali. In the last intershard conflict Kali supported the Star Tower due to Mawar’s influence, despite his Sihat’s suggestions. Despite his tribal nature Mawar has demonstrated skillful diplomacy in the Kingdoms affairs. He sent troops in the Dragon Tyrant wars and allowed occupation during the Astral and Gith Wars. While many on Kali are wary of outsiders they are also often friendly, though very few seek to leave the islands and explore other shards.
The military on Kali are a militia of hunters and fishermen. Their skills with spear and club make them worthy warriors, often known for their skill in the wilds and their survival instinct. Some of their warriors practice the art of Silat, a style of fighting, using both unarmed and armed techniques. Some of these fighters have been claimed to achieve inhuman feats of agility though I am yet to witness any such feats. Lastly in times of war some tribes send warriors who take on the aspect of various animals, tiger, rhino etc. By the accounts of Biran rangers who fought alongside them in the Draconic wars some of these totem warriors are a sight to behold, letting loose unimaginable rage on the battlefields and howling and calling their totem animals cries. The last military group is the Wild Hunters, the tribespeople trained by the Biran rangers during the Draconic wars who have kept their skills sharp in the war with the Madu.
The tribes of Kali do not have a formal currency, they trade goods between Tribes and within tribes often simply provide what is needed for each individual. The fishermen and women often come back to land and provide for everyone while the craftspeople will provide them with their spears, boats and nets, however even when no weapons or boats are provided the hunters still distribute their food regardless.
Since the Astral wars some merchants from other Shards have made their way to Kali and discovered a variety of resources that are unique to the shard. Spices are relatively common on Kali however unbeknownst to the local population they are quite rare and expensive on other shards. Nutmeg, cloves, salt and peppers are all available for relatively cheap. Wood is also in abundance on the shard with most of the islands heavily forested. Although permission must be sought by the hunting Sihat before any hunting or harvesting can occur. In return for these goods as well as the exotic animals such as elephants and tigers, the trade Sihat’s highly value weapons, iron, cows and horses.
The shard of Kalimadu is a tropical archipelagic shard. It’s surface is 90% covered in salt water, with the 10% being heavily forested islands, sometimes separated by sand banks, sometimes by deeper waters. Somehow this shard experiences “storms” where water falls from the sky, though this water, unlike the water in the oceans, is drinkable, such as the water from a waterstone. These heavy storms happened relatively frequently with the locals calling them “Monsoons” which is not easily translated to Zhentish but loosely means “the sky is falling”.
Many of the islands on Kali are home to volcanos, or exploding mountains as the early explorers titled them after one exploded spewing liquid fire over an entire village. For some reason the Kali almost celebrate these explosions, claiming they are the spirits of the mountains or the will of the gods.
Wildlife native to Kali’s island forests include Elephants, Tigers, Orangutans, Leopards, Rhinos and the Komodo dragon, however of far more interest are the wildlife under the water. Kali boasts the largest array of sea life of any shard in the Kingdoms, with hundreds of varieties of fish, most of which I cannot translate. To large predatory Sharks, squids, in some shallow areas between islands there are alligators but of most significance is the supposed sighting of the Kraken, the demon of the seas, born from the deepest ocean in the Feywild, which has reportedly been seen in the oceans of Kali.
Transport on islands is almost exclusively done on foot. Carts struggle to travel the forested regions, while traditional forms of transport such as horses and mules are not native to Kali and reserved only for the Sihats or Chiefs. Some tribes are known to have domesticated elephants as beast of burden however I have yet to witness this first hand.
Between islands the natives use two kinds of boats, the Lamba Panisi which is a long and slender boat that holds up to 20, these are used to carry warriors to battle or transport large amounts of goods. Slightly smaller is the Palari Panisi, made for 4-8 people, often used as fishing vessels, can be used to travel between islands but not designed for larger distances.
For transport between shards the locals lack the magic to create portals to other shards, however the Orzhovan’s discovered a portal during the Draconic Wars that can be activated by a skilled arcanist.
Travel to the Feywild does occur occasionally as there are portals located in the ocean to the oceans of the Feywild. However these portals are unreliable and most tribespeople consider them a cautionary tale against carelessness than a form of transport.
The tribe of Kali is made up of roughly equal parts humans, elves and half-elves. The Madu however, are predominantly humans, dwarves and gnomes. The number of different islands makes it impossible to say for certain across the whole shard but it seems there are no natural born dragonborn across the shard, some more superstitious tribes consider them a good omen, offering them food and shelter to please certain gods. This is a cultural tradition that probably stems from fear of the dragon tyrants however now is mostly just considered politeness.
Tieflings are born in Kali with roughly the same frequency as other shards, they are often treated with some suspicion as it is believed they are somewhat unnatural.
Religion is a contentious issue on Kali due to various tribes denying or accepting the existence of Poseidon, who it seems is the patron of Kali. Most of the oral stories told around the tribes at night and during celebrations talk of the spirits of the woods, the spirits of the oceans and the spirits of animals. However this Shamanism (Or Kejawan in the local tongue) no longer seems to be the dominant belief system. Ever since a large being believed to be Poseidon, saved the tribe of Kali from a tidal wave some 500 years ago many people turned to worship of him as the savior of the shard. Buana’s history tells us that he was worshipped previously on the shard before one of the many cataclysms by a tribe called the Trasin. When this information was revealed a group of individuals started what is now called the Sect of Trasin. This sect has people across various shards who believe in Posiedon rather than the spirits of the wild, however not all the tribespeople have adopted Posiedon as their God. The Sect of Trasin is most popular in the Kali tribe, arguably the reason the tribe became so large was the discovery of divine magic by those faithful to Poseidon. This discovery not only proved to many that Posiedon existed and deserved worship, but it also was the turning point in the war between the Kali and Madu tribes, leading to the Kali dominating and the Madu fleeing to the western islands on the shard. At the start of the Draconic wars Buana’s history tells us that 4 out of 5 homes would have a tribute to Posiedon however after the Draconic wars that reduced significantly to about 1 in 5. It is still recognized as one of the main religions on Kali despite its lack of worship.
Lastly, a recent addition to the religions of Kali is that of the Wild Hunt. Stemming from the Biran rangers who trained many tribesman during the Draconic wars, this religion is now significantly different from its source. The Biran rangers pay tribute to the Spirit of the Hunt, often thought of as the thrill of fighting and hunting, as well as the acceptance that the spirits of nature are an awe inspiring force. However due to the popularity of Posiedon in recent years the Wild Hunters personified this spirit of the forest such that the object of their worship now looks very much like a Ranger. They have statues carved of an elven ranger, wearing a green cloak and wielding a bow. Similar to the Shamistic rituals, animals are sometimes sacrificed to her, offerings left to her and celebrations done in her name to increase the yield of the hunt or grant luck in battle.
The wood carving tradition exists on many parts of the shard with many religious idols being intricately carved the most famous of which are from the island of Aceh, outside Kali’s tribal group.
Another common tradition is called Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppet) which is a form of Gurindam (oral story telling) these serve to tell stories of Kali heroes, Shamanistic stories about the beginning of the worlds and teach lessons to children about caution, obedience, bravery etc. Some famous stories include The Story of Amir Hanza, Who Sacrificed, Which is about a man who saved his village from a volcano by sacrificing himself on an altar to Posiedon, who craved the blood of his family since they hadn’t paid tribute. Another is The Story of Mantak Chia, Who Created the Ocean by swallowing all of the people, whether they were good, or bad, swallowing all of the trees and animals and mountains, then digesting them and spewing them back out again. Some others include The Story of Semar and Petruk, Who Laughed Together, The Story of Setan Kober, Who Wielded A Legendary Kris, and more recently The Story of Putri Kali, Who Slayed A Dragon.
Another common cultural practice is the art of Pencak Silat (Mock Fighting). Again often done at celebrations and religious festivals participants engage in unarmed combat for enjoyment and entertainment. Sometimes these fights are used to solve conflicts and make deals. One woman fought for the right to marry a man from another tribe, another was a fight between two brothers to see who would earn their fathers spear after his death.
Dances in Kali are believed by many to have had their beginning in rituals and religious worship. Such dances are usually based on rituals, like the war dances, the dance of witch doctors, and dance to call for rain or any agricultural related rituals such as Hudoq dance ritual of Dayak people. In some tribes, dances has become the integral part of Sect of Trasin rituals. Sacred ritual dances performed only in Poseidon temples such as sacred Sanghyang dedari and Barong dance.
The tribesmans folk dance is more concerned with social function and entertainment value than rituals. The Machak “Ronggeng” and Aceh “Jaipongan” is the fine example of this common folk dance traditions. Both are social dances that are more for entertainment purpose than rituals. Randai is a folk theatre tradition of the Minangkabau people which incorporates dance, music, singing, drama and the martial art of silat. Certain traditional folk dances has been developed into mass dance with simple steps and movements, such as Poco-poco dance from Minahasa and Sajojo dance.
A fascinating part of Kali dress is the Batik, which allows different colours and patterns to be painted onto clothing depending on the different position in the family or tribe, and for different occasions such as religious festivals, hunting or war. For festivals and other religious occasions many wear clothing with yellows and brown. For hunting and day to day life greens and blues are very common while for war most people wear red or show red in their cloth. Tribe leaders are also usually obvious by their orange hues in their Batik and Sihat’s of various kinds obvious by their colours although different tribes have different Sihat’s so it is a little less obvious which Sihat is in charge of what area. (in some tribes the hunting Sihat wears green always, while in others the hunting Sihat might wear blue) In most cases the religious Sihat will wear deep reds probably due to a strong connection between religion and war.