Peoples of the Great River

There are five peoples that live on the banks of the Mahnad. With one exception they do not have any special traits unique to them that set them apart from each other. The three largest groups are the Murya, Fenai, and Yao who are native to the surrounding lands, but there are also several groups of Kuri and Suay who have arrived in the ports of Kamir and Surat as merchants or slaves.

Top row: Murya, Fenai, Yao.
Bottom row: Kuri, Suay.

The Murya are the native people of the coast of the Inner Sea, where most of the large ports of Kaendor are located. After the Naga disappeared to their more southern kingdoms centuries ago, the coastal marshes of the Mahnad became one of the two centers of the new Murya civilization as they settled in the abandoned Naga strongholds of Hatun and Surat, and the god-queen Yenati claimed the ancient towers of Kamir as the seat of her power. Yenati claims power over the entire Mahnad, but her influence only covers the marshes up to Surat, which in the past decades has become more of a tributary than an actual subject. However, over the centuries, Murya rice farmers and fishermen have expanded continuously, though slowly, up the banks of the Lower River upstream of Surat. The Murya towns Vahri and Dar Valan are the largest settlements east of Surat and there are dozens of Murya villages along the river banks. Even here Murya still make up over two thirds of the population.
Murya sees themselves as being the average build for people and their neighbors being tall or thin in stature as compared to them. They have red skin and deep dark brown hair that they usualy wear long, but often in all manners of braids. Only the Suay have a greater claim to be seen as people of the waters, and on the Mahnad the Murya are truly the people of the river. Surrounded by dense forests with few roads, the Murya of tbe Great River mostly travel between villages by boat, and the water between Surat and Vahri is constantly filled with the sails of their slender and fast dhows. And most Murya who are not making their living on the river are working the rice fields along the banks. In Murya culture, merchants are seen as people of high status just below nobles, and are often seen as social equals of royal administrators who are also working with accounts and coins.
Among the Murya of the Lower River, few revere any of the god kings, and most who have left the
Marshes to seek their fortune further upstream left behind their home in the Marshes to get away fro, the tyranical reign of Yenati. Instead, a majority of them are worshipping the Moon Goddess Ashana, who they revere as the creator of their people, but there are also many shrines to Hazuron, the Lord of Storms.

The Fenai are a people from the forests of the great Dainiva forest beyond the mountains to the north of the Inner Sea. But not long after the the Murya had started to settle on the Lower River, they encountered Fenai explorers who had traveled along the edge of the mountains and followed the various rivers that flow into the Mahnad from the north. Over the following centuries they established several settlements along one of the main northern branches in the area surrounding their hill stronghold Menai. Unlike their kin on the northern coasts, the Fenai of Dainiva are not sailors or great fishermen. They regularly use the river to travel between villages and visit the larger markets downstream in their canoes but have no large trade ships like junks or galleys of their own. Instead they continue to support themselves by hunting and growing barley and roots in the forests like their ancestors. In Fenai society, warriors have a very special station that puts them outside the traditional roles for men and women. Most warriors grew up as boys, but no girls may be denied the request to be trained as one, and all have to prove the same way that they have both the ability that it takes to be a warrior and the true spirit of one. Warriors have their own way of dress and it is considered highly improper for them to wear the clothes of a farmer or a woman. There are also certain types of work that are seen as undignified by warriors, and female warriors are not allowed to participate in activities that are restricted only to women, which is one of the reasons many girls are hesitant to train as warriors.
Fenai make up about a fifth of the people on the Lower River and are much less wealthy than the prospering Murya merchant towns.But they have established themselves as succesful traders of highland lumber that is traded as far as the Murya shipyards on the coast, as well as pelts from animals not found in the marshes. They also hunt and train heors in the forests which are highly sought after as mounts by nobles and officers and fetch very high prices. Fenai make up a significant portion of the people in Vahri, which is otherwise a Murya town.
The Fenai worship their three gods Idain, Livas, and Heotis, the gods of the Earth, Animals, and the Home. They also have many shrines to the hunter Arkunas, and many Fenai living near Murya have adopted a stronger worship of the moon, which their traditions call Temis.

The Yao are the people of the mountains that rise south of the Mahnad and stretch far to the south for many hundreds of miles between the sea and the Black River. They have lived in the highlands out of reach of the Naga and the Tower Builders for a very long time, but since the Murya began settling the Lower River, bands of hunters and explorers have come down into the river valley, followed in the past century by mercenaries seeking to earn coins in times of peace at home. In their high homelands, Yao herd goats and grow potatoes, but few have settled in the river valley to become farmers.
Yao have ocher-yellow skin and deep black hair and eyes, and they regularly tower over the other people with broad shoulders and thick arms and legs.
Most yao that come to the Mahnad are Sakaya, belonging to a spiritual society that has abolished allegiance to clans or kings and prays to no gods, to create a community of equals without nobles or slaves.They are only Sakaya, and nothing else. They believe that it is the highest virtue and greatest duty for everyone to do what is in their ability to best contribute to their society. Once Sakaya have found their calling in life, they are expected to dedicate themselves to master their trade and strive for constant improvement. With their society placing high value on talent and always comtributing to the best of your ability, Sakaya tend to be mucb more open about gender role than the rest of Yao society. While new converts often find it quite challenging, the mystics of the Sakaya are very insistent to make sure that no children are kept from task in which they show great natural skill.
Sakaya warriors constantly train their skills, but in times where their abilities are not expected to be needed, they often send some of their own out to seek work as mercenaries and earn both experience coins, rather than help with menial task in their villages on which their talents are wasted. Companies of Sakaya mercenaries are regarded among the best in Kaendor, and certainly the most disciplined, which makes Yao mercenaries quite expensive, whether they are actually Sakaya or not.

The Kuri are a rarely seen people from the Far North, whose distant homeland is often talked of as a mysterious place of icy cold and strange dangers at the Inner Sea, tnat is ruled by a fearsome witch queen. Kuri are usually even less chatty than Yao, which makes them appear as quite unapproachable to most other people. They seem to be reading a lot of meaning into slight expressions and gestures that are very hard for strangers to read, which many used to more animated speech perceive as somewhat rude or slightly spooky, or even outright unsettling. Kuri have nearly white skin and hair and are almost always very lean, which makes them often appear taller than they really are, generally being no greater in height than Murya or Fenai. Kuri often have faces that appear as quite androgynous to other people, and their culture doesn't really have distinctive gender roles like in most other parts of Kaendor. As a diplomatic gesture, Kuri in foreign lands will often adopt some local dress to somewhat fit in with cultural gender norms, but many quietly despise doing so and may not pick the clothes that the society deems appropriate. To them, this isn't seen as passing as another gender, but simply as an inconvenience to avoid troubling their hosts who may greatly care about such things.
The Kuri are one of tbe most advanced cultures of Kaendor, being equal to the Murya city states on the Inner Sea. Halva is the only known place where the smiths know how to make crude iron into steel that matches the extremely rare meteor iron, which is claimed to be a gift from their witch queen, who got it from the giants.
Kuri come to the South most commonly as merchants, though there are also the occasional travelling scholars and adventurers. Kuri follow two different faiths, which are a major source of frictions in their homeland Venlat. Large numbers of worship Meiv, the Witch Queen of Halva, who is said to be a daughter of the North Wind. Meiv and her White Guard rule over the main cities and ports of Venlat, but her worship does not reach their borders. The majority of Kuri follow shamanism and prey to the spirits of tbe lands around them than to any specific gods. The smaller clans reject Meiv's rule and resist attempts to being them under her control, and they look down with hostiity to those who wirship her as a deity. Kuri diplomats and many merchants are servants of Meiv, while single scholars or adventurers are almost always from the shamanic clans.

The Suay are a small people from the islands off the coast in the Endless Ocean. It is said that they were slaves of the naga who had the blood of water spirits, which gives them their ability to swim for long times underwater at great speeds like dolphins or seals. When the Naga retreated to the warmer South, many of their aquatic slaves manged to escape or were forgotten, and found a new home on the islands where no ships could go at that time.
Suay have gray skin that often appears sligntly purple that easily dries up and burn in the harsh light of the noon sun. In their villages and town, the streets are completely deserted in the middle of the days as people spend the time indoors or underwater. Suay travelling to other lands usually wear long hooded coats made from light materials like cotton or hemp that keeps them from overheating. Suay are often a bit shorter than other peoples, but spending much of their time swimming they are almost always seen as being in exelent shape. Since they are low in numbers even in their homeland, Suay are very rare in other places, but they often stand out with their unique appearance and dress.