History and Culture Edit
Mystos culture always puts a strong emphasis on looking at the past. Heroes in the past were greater than heroes today, cities were more spectacular, and leaders were wiser. This is a fundamental belief of almost any population in Mystos. It is not uncommon for a great leader in current times to attribute his success to inspiration from previous leaders.
There are two major types of stories about history that are recorded and retold: stories about heroes and stories about wars (that focus on heroes involved in the wars). And when it comes to wars, there is only one war that is so widely known that it is often called "the war", which revolves around the hero Thesa (although many other heroes were involved).
The Heroes of Mystos Edit
Hero worship has become one of the more prevalent forms of religious patronage in Mystos over the past few centuries. The bones of heroes have a special significance because the city that houses them and makes appropriate sacrifices to the hero receives prosperity. Many wars are even fought over the bones of powerful heroes, just for the special powers those bones provide.
And even though there are thousands of lesser heroes, there are three heroes that are special and are considered to be in a class of their own: Korlamos, Percy, and Thesa. Stories about these heroes tend to be larger than life. They do incredible feats of cunning, strength, and courage, but every hero also has done some incredibly monstrous act. This is just the way things go. Heroes are so much better than regular folk that they tend to be arrogant and pig-headed. This gives them the idea that they can do or take whatever they want (which is usually the case). In the end, they still end up being a good thing for society because the good they bring outweighs the bad.
The hero of heroes is Korlamos. She is practically a goddess in her own right and is the shining example of how the greatest of heroes can one day ascend to demi-godhood (should their deeds be worthy of such a title). Her name means "Chosen of Korla": an ironic title considering that Korla was her greatest adversary.
Korlamos is the ultimate symbol of mortal struggles. Her story is one where every time she seems to have reached the pinnacle of mortal abilities, she is challenged with something that tests her to her limits. Her journey takes her all over the world of Mystos, and even through the elemental planes. At one point, she even enters the land of the dead and outwits Neul himself.
Korlamos is also a special hero because she is still alive. She sits in the hallway of the gods as a demi-god. Many people will make sacrifices to her to gain her blessing: be it for courage, cunning, or strength. In this way, she is a global hero: people across Mystos will call for her strength to help them with their own struggles.
The great hero Percy is said to be both the son of Korlamos and the father of her. He was a human king of great renoun that traveled the world performing great (and terrible) acts like a normal hero. During his travels, he became stricken with love (probably thanks to the mischief of Maeli) for a beautiful god-born named Medusa.
Medusa was already married, so Percy had to meet her in secret. They decided (foolishly) to make love inside Mysta's temple. Mysta found out and as they lay in each other's arms, she transformed Medusa into a monster (the one you are familiar with -- snakes, stone-gaze, etc.). Medusa immediately turned her love, Percy, into stone. This would seemingly be the end of the hero, but there is more to the story.
Medusa gave birth to Korlamos, sired by Percy. She could not take care of Korlamos (for fear of turning her to stone), so the goddess Korla and god-born Maeli offered to take care of the child. Medusa turned Korla down because she felt indebted to Maeli for introducing her to Percy (even if the fates turned out to be cruel). Korla from that point onward hated Korlamos.
During Korlamos' travels, Medusa spent her time taking the stone that made up Percy's statue and compressing it. Eventually, she had compressed the stone so much that it became a diamond. And then came another cruel twist of fate: Korlamos was on a quest to take Medusa's diamond (unknowing the true origins of her birth). She came into Medusa's lair (which now had many children of Medusa with similar powers and forms called the Medusae or Gorgons). She used a bronze shield to look through a reflection to fight Medusa and, during a deadly swing of her sword to Medusa's neck, Medusa threw the diamond into Korlamos' throat.
The diamond began to grow inside Korlamos and she became pregnant (even though she was still a virgin warrior). Eventually, she gave birth to Percy: reborn as a tortoise-humanoid (and the first of the tortoise folk). Percy went on to become a hero of repute only second to his daughter/mother Korlamos.
And, although this story explains the origins of tortoise folk being later than the origins of humankind, the tortoise folk embrace this story because they believe that they are a refinement of humans.
Percy's bones have resided (and continue to reside) in the city Percias.
Thesa was the best hero involved in the greatest war in Mystos history. The war against Argia (a city that is only ancient ruins now) lasted 10 years and is pretty much the golden standard to people of what an epic war should be. Each side was evenly matched and even the gods fought on opposing sides during the conflict. It was only through sheer brilliance and cunning of this here, Thesa, that Argia fell.
Cultural Quirks Edit
Although it would be insufficient to say that all Mystos culture is the same (it varies significantly), there are a few things that can be expected in any city.
Mystos religion is a very important aspect to society, but also follows a mindset of balance: too much of anything, including religion, is just not socially acceptable. There is a correct time and place for religion, but it should never be forgotten. Many specific cultural quirks have some sort of connection to religion: from the way people trade, to the way they eat meals.
Pretty much every society has some form of slaves. Sometimes people who can't really live on their own are taken in by others in exchange for work. In most cases, other races are enslaved. It is such a normal practice that it isn't really considered to be an affront to see slavery. Opposing slavery would probably be as offensive to a person in Mystos as supporting it would be in our modern world. That, of course, isn't to say nobody has opposed it before. Heroes often are pig-headed enough to think that slavery is wrong and will swing their heavy hands to make things go their way. Which lasts as long as the hero is around and then things go back to normal.
Treatment of slaves is a whole different issue. Slaves are actually treated pretty well. Neul, the god of the dead, is also the god of slaves (the dead have to work off their debts for him). He enforces good treatment of slaves. Slaves can expect certain rights such as food each day, up to half of their expected earnings for medicine if they get sick, a fair price to be purchased back by their families, etc. Failure to meet any of these basic rights will earn the wrath of Neul (which is usually pretty hard to do).
One further thing about slaves is that they are usually considered to be spoils of war. That is, an army will storm a city and take back citizens of that city as slaves. Even though a particular orc city might have hundreds of human slaves doesn't mean it is unsafe for humans to visit the city. In fact, guests to the city are explicitly protected from slavery or harm in general by Mysta. When they leave the city's waters they are fair game, however.