Uneasy Lies the Head
River Rat Clans
The River Rat Clans of Neu Ungren
The family structure of Riverlanders, even those who have lived under the imperial influence for the number of generations differs in several major ways from that of the reminder of the empire. The main differences lie in the matrilineal inheritance structure, strong propensity for what would elsewhere be considered incestuous marriages, unusually high frequency of adoptions and relatively lax attitude towards bastardry.
First of those, matrilineal family structure, is the one that was most attacked by the church. Most families, however, fully hold to old traditions wherein the children are raised by their uncle (the riverlandish word is Bhabba which also means brother in law (wife’s brother), Elder, Captain and strangling marsh flower.) Contrary to other matrilineal cultures, that of the riverlands does not preclude marriage. However, marriage here is a contract between the husband to be and his bride’s eldest brother. Husband enters the brother’s family in a somewhat client-like status (as thukka or a turkey). He is bound to show respect to Bhabba and quite frequently spends some time working on his barge or the land, in exchange Bhabba is expected to provide job and, frequently, housing for his thukka and ultimately help him out in need. This can lead to the difficult situations for the women who are the oldest children in the family as it is very difficult for them to marry before their brothers have established themselves sufficiently to become Bhabba. Even if thukka does not move in with Bhabba, his children remain Bhabba’s authority and they spend their time between the households, ultimately inheriting Bhabba’s family name and property. Eventually, when their sisters marry, thukka gains his own thukkas thus extending the clan.
While traditionally the eldest Bhabba in the clan will be the senior member, these days, particularly among the River Rats, it is usually the one whose barge brings in the greatest profit. It is their contributions to the clan prosperity that raises thukkas from their client-like position to their Bhabba, enables them to become Bhabba themselves and that eventually determines their importance in the clan. Even among those who, like Twees of Neu Ungren, now inherit the name and property along the male line Bhabba remains the most important male relative and one responsible for upbringing (not to mention employing) his sister sons.
The ideal riverlander family thus, has at least one son and one (preferably two) daughters, with the son being at least 6-7 years older then the older daughter (so he can assume his duties as a Bhabba when it comes the time for his sisters to wed). As this is not always possible, riverlanders are frequently given to the practice of adoptions. Family with an eldest daughter without suitable brother will frequently adopt her into an older family with appropriate Bhabba candidate. Also, second and third sons, particularly those of the poorer families, are frequently adopted (if smart and healthy) into the families that are lacking a Bhabba. Furthermore, in those parts of the riverlands where the Matrilineal system was prosecuted by the church, a complex system of adoptions was developed that simulated the Bhabba – thukka relationship and ensured that the children are ultimately raised by their uncle. In addition, adoption is considered to be crucial for developing the good relations between the families and quite frequently alliances and business deals between clans will be sealed by cross adoptions.
Finally, the difficulties associated with marrying outside ones own clan, tend to make a cousin marriages a good proposition among the Riverlanders. In particular, those who become important members of their own clan before they reach a marriageable age tend to marry their cousins and remain within the clan. In such cases the role of Bhabba tends to be limited mostly to the upbringing of children. Really close-knit families cross-marry cousins as in the case of Davin and Anastas Pearle of Neu Ungren.
Fourth interesting feature of riverlanders family life is the surprisingly relaxed attitude towards sexuality of adolescent, non married girls. Given the nature of marital customs it is rare for a Riverlander female to be married before the age of 30 (As her eldest brother has to have already established himself beforehand). As it is considered bad form if the husband is significantly younger then the bride (although few years is by no means uncommon) this means that riverlanders remain single quite longer then either the imperials or the peoples of the Western Lands. It is therefore hardly surprising that, given the easy going nature of their culture, they have relaxed attitude towards the amorous tryst among the adolescents and young adults. Sexual relations between ages of 15 and 27 are informal, largely unsanctioned, and in most cases have no bearing on the possible marriage afterwards (which after all is primarily a business contract between thukka and Bhabba). Virginity is not highly praised, and, if anything, a husband marrying a sexually inexperienced bride would have a cause for complaint. While the folks songs and stories of riverlands are filled with young lovers swearing the eternal love and he going through particularly trying period as thukka so that they can be united forever, those are mostly echoes of Imperial chivalric ballads and carry little resemblance to actual life.
Naturally, this practice results in a reasonably high number of pregnancies and birds out of the wedlock. Reason that the number is not as high as a casual observer would expect comes from two things, diverse, woman carried folk-lore on the means of contraception and the custom of Gamba by which a pregnant girl, no matter how young, forfeits the privileged status as a child of the household and has to assume all working duties of the adult. Nevertheless it is probable that as many as a quarter of all children born in riverlands are Gambaire or bastards. The custom concerning them is that they are treated as the children of the same household as their mother (thus the Bhabba of the children born Gambaire would be their mother’s uncle rather then her brother). In most cases no discrimination is show towards them except for the disadvantage that comes with the status of the youngest siblings in a family. While Gambaire children tend to be adopted out more then the “bed born”, it is mostly due to their age difference rather then any fundamentally inferior status they may have.
Certain sexual laxity extends into the adulthood as well. In the years immediately preceding marriage the girl is required to abstain from relationships, particularly with any potential suitors although she is allowed to flirt with those her brother would find suitable thukkas. In practically all the clans she has very little to no choice (even by the Imperial standards) in her future husband. Adultery after marriage, however, while still frowned upon is less sanctioned then in most other societies. If it is proven it causes a significant shift in relations between the Bhabba and thukka diminishing the first and elevating the second. More mercantile among the rats even have established fines that Bhabba is supposed to pay to the cheated husband, effectively for failing to live up to his end of the bargain of providing the sole access to his sister. If the appropriate restitutions are made, however, woman passes under her brother’s sole control for a period of a week to half a year (ostensibly so he can discipline her out of her wayward ways) but after that she returns to her husband who has no further right of grievance. Getting pregnant in an adulterous liaison invokes even more shame on Bhabba but otherwise has no other effect. Such children are considered normal “bed born” children and are raised by Bhabba much as “legitimate” children of a union would be. It is not uncommon for thus shamed Bhabba to went his anger on his philandering sister and chastisement period is frequently just that, but once it is over, no further grievance is carried and close relations between the siblings make even the harshest punishments positively mild compared with the fate of adulteress in the Empire.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the sexual openness of the riverlanders does not extend to the foreigners. Liaisons with the non-riverlanders are very much frowned upon and particular stigma lies on (non riverlandish) Neu Ungrenites. It is a part of the reason why it is practically impossible to ever see an adolescent riverlandish female anywhere near the city. Strangely enough this aversion extends into riverlander males as well which, with notable exceptions of course, means that the river rats are among the least frequent customers of the assorted civic brothels.
Perhaps most surprising fact concerning the above is how little of it is known by an average Neu Ungrenite or even the Doni Waldemarker. Centuries of church opposition have caused riverlanders to be quite closed about their family arrangements. Only very few outsiders are ever invited to have as much as a glimpse into the riverlander family life, even when they are otherwise on excellently friendly terms with the household member. This leads to the image widely held in Neu Ungren of the River Rats as the cold people when their families and children are concerned, the image that can not be further from truth.
The followers of the civic politics know that the most important River Rat in the city is the dean of the centuries Batrolomeus Twee. Those with interest in commerce claim that it is a toss off between Davin Pearle and the Jakob Falakirian, Portilo Bartolini’s brother in law. Among the river rats themselves, however, this honor goes to the old Avram Enekiek, former adventurer and bargemen extraordinaire. Not all reasons for this admiration are known to the outsiders but even the known facts are sufficient to explain the significant respect he is held in. Grown up in the shadow of the cataract Avram fled the vendetta, by the Latavan clan, against his family that killed his Bhabba and father. He fled across the river and for a while adventured with the mercenaries there. It is said that he had witch for a lover and that he has become a devotee of the old religion while in exile. He was barely 20 when he returned to avenge his family as was expected of him. This he did but in a way that was most unusual. Instead of murdering the principal male members of the Latavan as would be the custom he set out on a campaign of rumor-mongering, intimidation and selective piracy that, within two years made his enemies destitute as well as socially outcast. When the Latavan thukkas realized that the entire clan will be brought to ruin by this vendetta, without a drop of spilled blood, they rebelled against their principal members Bhabba Kolim and his nephew and likely successor Geza, who was the one who murdered old Enekieks. Thukkas surprised and subdued Geza and Kolim and delivered them bound to Avram requesting to, with their lives buy the peace for their clan. Avram not only accepted the peace but spared the lives of Geza and Kolim on the condition that they marry two of his own sisters thus handing over the Latavan clan to him. Surprised by the generosity of their enemy Latavans accepted and, although Kolim died some time afterwards Geza remains to this day a loyal thukka and a devoted friend to Avram. This pattern of non-violent ways became Enekiek trademark and both his clan and their neighbors profited from it.
Next several decades Avram traded the length of Tierz both above and bellow cataract with his wisdom becoming proverbial among the rats who frequently invited him to adjudicate disputes, eventually earning the old and respected title of Hazat or a Judge. However, with the growth of Enekiek business he had found he is spending more and more time in Neu Ungren where his presence was necessary for the smooth functioning of that, all important, terminus of the family business. It is therefore to the Neu Ungren that he retired after the loss of his leg seventeen years ago. How exactly this has occurred is unknown outside river rat community but given the even further boost Enekiek status in that community received at that time it must be surmised that it was lost on some mission of importance to the river rats at large and not simply his clan. What is known is that Avram never fully severed his adventuring roots and that as often as the family and business matters allowed he would slip onto the western bank for a month or two with his old companions. It was at the end of one of those sojourns that he appeared in Neu Ungren on Falakirian barge, his leg disfigured by a grossly infected wound. Best city doctors were rushed to him but were only able to save his life at a cost of the leg, and even that barely. Holding to the old rule that only useful hands should be on the barge, judge then took permanent residence in the city, becoming somewhat of a leader of the River Rat population there. Interestingly enough, man who since his youth have been known for unconventional approach to problems, become guardian of riverlandish traditions in the city and the fierce opponent of those who, like Twees, have shown any signs of “Imperialising” in their customs. Despite the bitter feud with the Dean of the Centuries (position Batholomeus gained with very little river rat support) Avram remains a popular pillar of the riverlanders society in Neu Ungren. Witness on almost every riverlander wedding and birth that takes place anywhere near Neu Ungren.
Of lately old Enekiek has discovered charity and has start up a number of schemes for helping the young and impoverished riverlanders and others who would otherwise be led astray into the “demon-worshiping church of Living God”.
Enekiek clan is vast, incorporating at least seven minor clans. It has over forty members permanently living in Neu Ungren and easily four or five times that number outside the city. Of its members worth mentioning are Davor Enekiek, Judge’s nephew and heir apparent. Even colder and more calculating man then Avram he lacks the sense of justice that has set the Judge apart from his peers. Some believe that the clan will not survive this succession intact. Out of the remainder of the clan it is worth mentioning Ainna Enekiek, the only family member who has dared to go against judge’s wishes. Born and raised in Neu Ungren Ainna, who is a second niece to Avram, has always been rebellious, breaking the rules prohibiting the mixing with the locals. Furthermore she had found a passion for singing and dancing in front of the audiences, something that in the Avram’s eyes made her equivalent to a prostitute. When he ordered her Bhabba to ship her back to the riverlands where she could get the proper upbringing, she fled the barge and spent most of the last year hiding in the city. While the year has been rough on her she has not regretted her decision and have since become a proper Neu Ungrenite. Eventually, and recently, her talent was discovered by Dragan of the Butterfly (himself of the distant riverlander background) and young Ainna has become one of his rising stars. So far neither bribes nor threats by old Judge have convinced Dragan to hand her back to her family. [Weasel has not met Ainna yet but she knows of her from Dragan. Her act is a bit more conventional then weasels’ are and is less of an attraction among the “elite” of the city. By the general consensus however she is as if not more beautiful then Weasel is with the golden hair that even the Fuggers could envy. She is headstrong and adventurous type, according to Dragan waay less mature then Weasel despite being a year older. He is somewhat worried about her as she has taken to believe that half a year of hiding from Enekieks have made her an expert on Neu Ungren underground and she is apt to underestimate dangers of the city. Dragan’s primary worry is that she will end up on a slave ship bound to Bardia after a wild party at kinfy or somewhere of that ilk.]
For practically every river rat in Neu Ungren, serious quarrel with Judge Enekiek would mean the social ostracism of the first order. Not so for Bartholomeus Twee, one of the brightest stars in the Neu Ungren political firmament and one of its most distinguished civic leaders. For several generations already, Twees have run their barges out of Neu Ungren and have counted themselves among the citizens. More then any other family they have accepted certain Imperial customs and norms including the patrilineal succession, openness to outside marriages and so on. Nobody, however, has pushed the integration so far as the current head of the family, Bartholomeus who is at once first River Rat to hold the office in the centuries and the first to be elected the Dean of that august body, as well as the first dean younger then fifty. Of slightly comical appearance, with the large nose and ears, with understated self deprecating humor, Bartholomeus is nevertheless one of the most charismatic men in Neu Ungren and a public speaker who can compete with patriarch Maltino. After a short time in his company, it is practically impossible to dislike the man and his enthusiasm is practically infectious. That is why most of the river rats forgive him his “imperialized ways”, and ignore Judge’s calls to ostracize him.
Born and raised in the city he has instinctive love for Neu Ungren. He is also fundamentally a democrat, understanding that the long term interests of the city are best aligned with those of the ordinals: the middle class of shopkeepers and craftsmen that have neither their routers and Bardia nor the Imperial titles and estates to fall back to. While himself somewhat richer then most ordinals he has dedicated his career and significant amount of his money to their cause and they have responded with the unqualified devotion and respect. While his support for the ordinals keeps him in cold but cordial relations with the captains council (which consider him a decent choice for the Dean), his dislike of aristocracy and inherited privilege (not contained to Imperials, in one impassioned speech he has called Avram Enekiek a Duke of the Rats) has made him a favorite bogeyman to the people such as Lords Imre (who used to be Dean of the Centuries before Bartholomeus) and Balas. The high aristocracy has worked hard to suppress his political and damage his economic standing, not flinching from personal attacks, business boycotts and other less then honorable tactics. Twee has retaliated by giving shelter to their escaped serfs (and on occasions family members) and always advocating the policy of the least imperial engagement in the centuries.
At 41, Bartholomeus has never married. This is neither due to the lack of appreciation for opposite sex (he has had lovers in the past) nor for the fear of family commitment (he is most dedicated and loving uncle to his sister’s sons) but rather due to the peculiar situation he finds himself in. Having renounced the matrilineal system of the riverlands he is not a suitable brother in law even for those rats, such as Davin, who otherwise respect him. On the other hand, marrying outside riverrat community would make him even more of an outcast. Finally, hidden romantic inside him still hopes for one true love, which he had not yet met.
Closest relatives of Bartolomeus are his two sisters Arla (35) and Gianna (32). Elder Arla is married to Kaleb Kalakirian of the respected Kalakirian clan. While this marriage had met with certain amount of resistance among the river-rats it has prove to be remarkably happy one. Kaleb considers Bartholomeus his Bhabba “…whatever he may say about it” and has worked staunchly to help him in his political and business dealings. He shares the Dean’s democratic ideals although in him the idealism is much more tempered by the typical Kalakirian pragmatism. Arla herself is also very active in political and business spheres and is considered by many to have been instrumental in the campaign to elect her brother the Dean. Not as good looking as her sister she has her brother’s charming personality augmented by even more generous helping of wit. Arla and Kaleb’s house has also developed reputation as a place of some of the best (no navs or nobs invited) parties in the city both for the adults and, in the last several years, kids. Since their marriage six years ago they have been making a kid every two years starting (in the ideal riverlander tradition) with the boy they called Bartholomeus and continuing with two girls Riva and Dareen. Arla is now pregnant again. The question of surnames for the children is raised sometimes, mostly by their Kalakirian relatives but Arla and Kaleb shrug it off commenting that the kids will have chance to pick one for themselves when they grow up.
Gianna Twee was much less happy with her choice of men then her big sister. Considered a classical riverlandish beauty she grew up addicted to the adoration of the boys and has had a Gambaire daughter, Vevay when she was no more then 15. Since their parents died early and girls passed into the liberal care of Bartholomeus, Gianna’s wanderings become ever more adventurous and she by 25 she has acquired unmarriageable reputation among the river rat community. She finally fell in love with Giovanni Gianbianco, a Fallabianco bastard of great piloting talent and extraordinary good looks and panache. Giovanni was at the time piloting for Grimmani family and an accident on the sea incapacitating Tirintano Grimmani gave him an idea to steal the roter and go pirate. He had a year of swashbuckling adventures ahead of him during which his wife saw him only a few times, before he was brought down by a small fleet led by Andreas Fugger and hanged on Barburata. Gianna, pregnant now for a second time reverted to her brother’s care. Shortly after the baby boy (Domenico) was born Bartholomeus made new wedding arraignments for his sister. Next husband was to be a close political ally of his and a young merchant of great promise, Cessare Garotta, at 30 soon to become a head of Clothiers and Canvas-Makers guild and a respected member of the centuries. Cessare was impressed enough by the still excellently looking Gianna as well as with a prospect of the Twee marriage alliance to overlook her past. Gianna on her part was still despondent enough by the death of her pirate and difficulties of childbirth to accept the marriage. It was, however, short-lived. At first Cessare ignored his wife’s indecencies and philandering but when it come to the point where his reputation was actually endangered he contacted the Bartholomeus and politely requested a divorce. Young Domenico passed into the Bartholomeus’s care but at least Cessare recognized the new child, now on its way, as its own. As soon as Luccia Garotta was born, the marriage was annulled. At 32 now, Gianna’s reputation now equals if not supercedes that of Andrea Fugger and with her remarkable looks finally starting to give way chances of her finding another husband are slim to nil. She remains in her brother’s house with generous but tightly controlled allowance which she has taken to spending in such places as Kinfy. It is a wonder that her ways have not damaged her brothers political career more then they did and some of his enemies have indeed tried to use her as a weapon against him, but his own irreproachable record as well as the distinct lines he has drawn concerning behavior in his house coupled with his almost comical long-suffering expression whenever subject of his sister is broached, made it very difficult to do so.
A remarkable feature of the Gianna’s saga, and one that speaks volumes about Bartholomeus’ own character is that while he was always there to offer help and advice to his sister, he never so much as reproached when she went against them and hurt herself. To the contrary he always commiserated and worked to minimize the consequences as much as possible. He was also a loving uncle for all Gianna’s children, particularly for Vevay who without him would have had practically no family love whatsoever.
Youngest of the Twee siblings is young Marcus (25). Because his mother died giving him birth he grew up with his aunts in riverlands, where he developed much different personality from his city based brother. He remains loyal and valuable clan member and is currently actually in charge of running the Twee barges on Tierz, but he does not share, or even understand, Bartholomeus’ interest in the civic politics. As an open follower of the old faith he is socially ostracized in the city. Not keen to be anybody’s thukka he has avoided the marriage so far (and is casting glances at his niece Vevay) but is rumored to have sired more gambaire children then most of the young man his age.
Also worth mentioning here is Vevay Twee herself. Possibly even greater beauty then her mother ever was she is otherwise her exact opposite. Quiet and contemplative girl that avoids company, dresses conservatively and speaks very little. She has great interest in the old faith and only Bartholomeus’ sincere pleadings have persuaded her not to go to the Judge’s Isle to become a witch. Nevertheless she remains an intellectual, much more comfortable with books then with people and at 17 is already probably one of the greatest non practicing experts on witchcraft in Neu Ungren.
Besides the Twees, riverrat family that is perhaps most immersed into the city have to be Kalakirians. Originaly from northern Waldemark where significant part of their clan still lives Kalakirians have long been loyal imperial subjects whose views about sucession, religion and marriage have always been flexible. Current head of the family is Isidor Kalakirian who just may be the only living man in the city to remember the time when Ferentz Gergely was not a Major. Willy octogenarian is a great admirer of his Gergely elder and in much the same way has handed the day to day business of the clan to several possible successors while he keeps an eye on them from the background. Chief among these and perhaps the richest Rat in the city is Jakob Kalakirian who has added to his otherwise extensive mercantile contact list by sealing marriage alliance with none less then Portillo Bartolini.
Always carrying somewhat of the mercenary reputation Kalakirians have made their fortune by finding exactly most needed good or service at a time and then positioning themselves as the main purveyors thereof. As such they have always profited in the times of war. During the Esthawan rebellion they traded at inflated prices with both sides but also provided the unofficial channel for, ultimately futile, negotiations. It is rumored that final fight of the surviving Esthawans was organized through their services (and that good part of the remaining Esthawan fortune found its way to Kalakirian pockets as a result). In this war they were on the forefront of the smuggling food business and their enemies accuse them of collusion with the swamp bandits of Ferenz Sogor that went beyond simple fencing. Now, with a witch war seeming imminent the Kalakirians fortunes seem even further in the upswing as the key districts surrounding Jagrem will look at them as their most successful sons for leadership and example in the hard times, thus making the Kalakirian friendship a valuable commodity for the lady regent.
While the most of the family members subscribe to the above outlook on the life it is Isidor who actually revels in it. Gnarled 89 year old enjoys playing the part of the grasping covetous riverlander from the jokes and plays to the fullest. His affected senility allows him to talk without a semblance of respect or propriety even in the most august company and his played up greed makes it possible for his nephews to put forward most outrageous requests and then excuse their unwillingness to negotiate by the “crazy old man”. In fact Isidor is neither senile nor mad preferring the liberties such reputation gives him and choosing to be the “bad Kalakirian” to his nephew’s good one in the age old routine.
Outwardly exact opposite to his uncle, Jakob Kalakirian is closest to him in tactical brilliance in the tough competition of a dozen or so nephews and thukkas who are potential successors to the clan. Almost as affable and friendly as the Bartholomeus Twee he uses his charisma for purely clan centered motives. He modernized the supply and delivery system for his barges on the principles similar to those used by navigators and introduced the system of contracts to riverlands. He also diversified, investing Kalakirian money into the manufactures that produce the goods they trade in as well as secretly underfunding such failing Nav houses as Cicogna and Erizzio. It is rumored of him that he has navigatorial pretensions, if not for himself then for one of his two extremely capable nephews. While this would not be surprising, nor the first time such a thing happened, it is unlikely because right now Kalakirian fortune is greater that that of most third rank navigators. What is more likely is that Jakob (and possibly Isidor) dreams of the integrated trading empire spanning from Bardia to the Second Cataract and from Estergorm into the uncharted west. Jakob is said to be the only one ever to get the good deal out of Bartollinis and the rumors of the influence his young and beautiful daughter Anette exerts over her fat husband are wild but their truth is notoriously unreliable.